Muslim women’s groups are outraged at a Canadian court ruling allowing “Canadianized Sharia” in Ontario:
Then the province of Ontario quietly approved its use. Under the 1991 Arbitration Act, sharia-based marriage, divorce and family tribunals run by the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice are expected to begin later this year. The move has so horrified many Muslim women that they’re vowing to stop the tribunals before they start.
“We’ve had a flood of e-mails from people, asking `How can we help?'” says Alia Hogben, president of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, whose 900 members come from a variety of Islamic sects.
They were outraged that Muslim women could be coerced into taking part in sharia tribunals or face family and community ostracism — or worse.
Why, they asked, should these women be treated differently from other Canadian women?
“When you come to Canada, you are a human being with full rights,” says Jonathan Schrieder, a Toronto civil litigation lawyer. Allowing sharia here — even a “Canadianized” version, as its proponents claim — “will subject Muslim women to a huge injustice.”
I don’t necessarily have a problem with religious arbitration being used voluntarily by members of a community, when it doesn’t contravene secular law. For example, Montreal – like many cities – has a Jewish beit din to decide matters of Jewish law, and members of the community can agree to subject themselves to its jurisdiction.
But what we’re talking about here isn’t voluntary arbitration: it’s an attempt to relegate Muslim women to second-class citizen status against their will. Even though the Ontario court ruling specifies that all parties must “voluntarily” submit themselves to the process, this is certain not to work because the very nature of Shari’a law makes the whole process open to unbelievable amount of abuse. No Canadian should stand for this.