Candidate Objects to Vote on Ismaili Holiday

An Ismaili Muslim seeking a federal Liberal nomination in Vancouver Centre says he is unhappy that the meeting is scheduled on the same day as an Ismaili religious and cultural holiday.

Taleeb Noormohamed, a 27-year-old former high-tech entrepreneur and federal government policy adviser, told the Straight that Ismaili Muslims celebrate Navroz, otherwise known as Persian New Year, on Sunday (March 21).

On the same day, Noormohamed, MP Hedy Fry, and former Vancouver councillor Lynne Kennedy will compete for the Vancouver Centre Liberal nomination at the Coast Plaza Hotel, with voting beginning at 4 p.m.

"It's a huge concern," Noormohamed said. "For me, personally, it would be as though we were asking the Jewish community to vote on Rosh Hashanah or asking the Chinese community to vote on Chinese New Year."

Noormohamed said that Narvoz has "obvious cultural and religious significance" for him and several of his supporters. "The day begins with a prayer in the morning," he said. "During the course of the day, people exchange gifts with family, spend time with family, and prepare an evening meal."

At 6:30 p.m., he said, the formal prayers begin. "So, essentially, that poses a challenge to a lot of people," Noormohamed said. "Do they leave their family meal or their prayers to vote in a nomination meeting?"

Liberal campaign manager Doug Beaton told the Straight that the party extended voting hours by two hours and sent notices to 2,000 party members in the riding to address Noormohamed's concerns. "This is news to me, that he is still not happy with it," Beaton said.

Noormohamed said he is still "in the midst of negotiating this" with the party, adding that he would like the vote held on a different day. "It's fair to say I'm not happy with the solution as it stands now," he said.

Fry told the Straight that her campaign manager suggested extending voting hours after she had consulted with some Persian and Ismaili supporters. "They said it is a day that they all feast, etcetera, but they go to prayer at 7 in the evening," she said.

Patrick Maloney, president of the Vancouver Centre federal Liberal riding association, told the Straight that the party's "green light committee"--a subgroup of the provincial campaign--selected the date.

Liberal Party of Canada in B.C. president Bill Cunningham told the Straight that the green-light committee is chaired by Vancouver lawyer James Hatton. Other members are Alan Shuster, Cindy Grauer, Martin MacLachlan, Rex Renkema, Sharon Apsey, and Jagtar Bains.

The United Nations has also declared March 21 as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in commemoration of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in South Africa.