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Women against Sharia

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.

Via LGF and Burnside, who are all over this one.

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • raymond robert 11.30.-1, 12:00 AM

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  • Ikram 06.11.04, 5:41 PM

    Sari, do you agree that Ontario should also ban Halacha courts, which use the same Ontario arbitration system?

    How would you like the Ontario government to proceed?

  • Hanthala 06.11.04, 6:14 PM

    Sari, I somehow doubt (but as the article suggests, perhaps its time to investigate) that the Hasidic equivalent is only used on a “voluntary” basis. Social and community pressure can do a lot to make someone “volunteer” to “subject themselves to its jurisdiction.” That’s exactly what the problem would be with Shari’a law. No more, no less.

  • Ikram 06.11.04, 6:22 PM

    As today’s Toronto Star article on the issue indicates, the binding arbitration system is currently used by Jewish and Ismaili religious groups in Ontario. Mumtaz Ali is proposing that other (presumably Sunni) Canadian Muslims have access to the same system.

    There are definitely substantive equity issues relating to this proposal. At the same time, there are seemingly innumerable bigots commenting on the Mumtaz’ proposal issue from a position of ignorance.

    I would hope that you, Sari, and other Godly bloggers address some of the real concerns of religious arbitration, but as you are using prominent hate-site LGF as your main source, it seems you are more likely to go the latter route.

  • segacs 06.11.04, 7:04 PM

    Ikram and Hanthala, the key difference between voluntary arbitration in the cases you mentioned and in this case is not the theory but the practice.

    Realistically speaking, community coersion has a much higher chance of being a factor in this case, leading to women who theoretically can refuse to participate, but who will face ostracism if they do so.

    That said, I would be just as vehemently opposed to a Jewish quasi-court system if I heard reports of it being abused or people being forced to participate. I am not aware of such cases, but if you are, feel free to bring them to my attention.

    Oh, and Ikram, what exactly do you mean when you call me a “Godly blogger”? Not to mention calling LGF a “prominent hate site” (which leads me to believe you don’t really read it or pay attention to what’s written there, and are instead content to repeat the standard accusation of racism that gets flung at anyone who dares to criticize extremist Islam).

  • Ikram 06.11.04, 7:28 PM

    I had thought that you were a religious person, Sari. If this is not the case, if you are unGodly or anti-God, I’m sorry for the error.

    As for LGF, I do read thru it once in a while, though not frequently. From what I have read, at the LGF community you can regularly find, unchallenged, Muslim-baiting, misogynist and bigoted remarks, and on at least one occasion, a fantasy about assaulting Muslim schoolgirls. I believe these sorts of comments accurately reflect the tenor of LGF and the views of its readers on what is an acceptable range of discourse. In my view, this qualifies LGF is a hate-blog (and the most popular one on the net).

    (If you want, I can assemble and send you a catalogue of LGF commentary showing this).


  • Ikram 06.11.04, 7:28 PM


    I don’t think you’re a bigot Sari. I wouldn’t read you if I did. I think that you choose to spend your (electronic) time hobnobbing with hatemongers. Which is fine by me. But to the extent your views on this blog are exclusively informed by the hatemongers you associate with, I’ll challenge you. If you would prefer I did not, let me know, and I won’t disturb you again.

    As for criticism of Islam, extremist or otherwise, I have no problem with it. I’m not Godly (for example, I would be very happy if Canada banned religious day schools — Christian, Muslim and Jewish), I’m mostly Rushdie, not Khomenei. But that doesn’t make me Enoch Powell.

  • segacs 06.11.04, 9:00 PM

    Ikram, I’m not religious, nor am I anti-religious. I’m pro-freedom of religion (which also implies freedom from religion) for those who choose it). I have no problem with your religion or lack thereof, as long as you have no problem with mine, or lack thereof. That goes for everyone.

    As for the other, I agree that there are some scary people who post comments on LGF. But posts that appear on the site itself are not “hateful”, nor is Charles Johnson, from what I can see, a “hate-mongerer”. I try not to judge bloggers by their readers. Imagine if you judged me by mine…

    I hope this answers your questions.

  • DaninVan 06.11.04, 10:50 PM


  • Hanthala 06.12.04, 5:27 AM

    Sari, which practice? As far as I know, there has yet to be any practice of Sharia in Canada.

    On the issue of comparitive religious practices, realistically speaking, I think many women in Israel would disagree with you. Perhaps many women in Canada too, but as was mentioned, there is no data on that, either way. I wonder why…

  • DaninVan 06.12.04, 6:02 AM

    ” As far as I know, there has yet to be any practice of Sharia in Canada. ”

    How would any non-Muslim ever know?
    It’s inconceivable that sharia isn’t being observed by many immigrants.
    Certainly the courts have seen more than they ever wanted to of the darker side of Hinduism.

  • Hanthala 06.12.04, 6:27 PM

    Danin, I meant legally sanctioned by our courts, in order to compare it to Halacha. Geez.

  • DaninVan 06.12.04, 6:40 PM

    I know what you meant; that’s Sari’s point. What goes on behind closed doors isn’t transparent, unlike our traditional legal system. How’s that old saying go, something about “Justice must be seen to be done” ?
    Where’s the entrenched appeal process ?
    If Muslim women weren’t consulted about something that may affect them so adversely, then the decision is seriously flawed from the beginning.
    How can you defend it? I’m baffled by your stand.

  • segacs 06.12.04, 7:55 PM

    Hanthala, I thought you might find this of interest:

    …Therefore, this judgment clearly demonstrates that while due deference will be afforded to the Beis Din as an arbitration tribunal, likewise the civil court will not hesitate to scrutinize Beis Din’s internal procedures and reasonableness of its judgments.

    In Canada at least (and I have no reason to believe that the situation would be any different in the U.S.), I suggest that if Beis Din were to depart markedly from Canadian (or American) standards of fair play for all elements of society or Beis Din were to deny to a litigant his right to legal counsel, then surely Beis Din’s judgment could and would be struck by the civil court…

    Essentially, a religious court – any religious court – should tend to respect and comply with the basic principles and values that our civil society here in Canada would enforce. Otherwise, the law of the land should supercede the law of the religious court.

  • 8opus 06.12.04, 8:35 PM

    With regard to the practice of Islamic and Jewish law, I imagine that courts of both are currently running quite happily in all parts of Canada. You don’t need an arbitration-opt-out law, as does Ontario, for this to happen.

    Hanthala, incidentally, they’re not Hassidic courts — I know many newspaper articles have made this error — but merely Jewish ones. (Ikram calls them “halacha courts”, something I have never heard before; the laws they apply are halakhot, but the term “halakha court” rings oddly.)

    As to coercion, I tend to think the argument of the Muslim womens’ groups mostly make sense. The arbitration opt-outs probably don’t pay enough attention to communal coercion. Yes, this is probably an issue in religious Jewish communities, too. A blanket look at this issue is in order, no?

  • 8opus 06.12.04, 8:38 PM

    Oh, Ikram, seriously — why bother baiting Sari? I mean, “Godly” or then, otherwise, “unGodly or anti-God”? And calling random sites names? Imputing guilt by association?

    Clearly Sari, or something she stands for, irritates you. Live with it. If you disagree with the ideas, then by all means, state your disagreement, and argue you. As to the needling and namecalling, though, perhaps you’d choose to expend that energy in other directions.

  • Josh 06.12.04, 11:14 PM

    Some good banter here.

    One of the last articles I read in the Canadian Jewish News was about ‘Palestinian’ refugees that had been rejected by Canadian immigration. Even though the story itself didn’t mention anything about Palestine, and that the claimants were all Lebanese, it struck me as the perfect solution, especially after my recent trip to Montreal. Canada could become the first Arab state of America. Why is Canada restricting Arab immigration and preventing Arabs from practicing their religions. Canada itself is an imaginary country stolen from the ‘first peoples’.

  • DaninVan 06.13.04, 1:15 AM

    Since when is Canada preventing people from practising their religion? If you’re talking about sharia, show me a Western Civilized Nation that doesn’t impose the law of the land on all it’s citizen’s. Take Kosher food; all packaging and labeling has to comply with National regulations. Meat packing health regulations still apply (I’m sure the Kosher standards are probably higher but why be picky).
    As for immigration, if you’re a WASP and not a Neurosurgeon, you’re chance of getting into Canada, is less than if you’re from a third world country.
    Nobody will admit that but just look at the ethnic profile for the country over the last 20 years.
    Vancouver is now 40%+/- ethnic Chinese
    for example. Cry me a river for some poor hard done by immigrant group.

  • Ikram 06.13.04, 7:18 AM

    Sari, My comments were motivated by reading the page you linked to — scroll down, you can see for yourself. LGF is as much a bulletin board/community as it is a single-author blog (like dailykos). And from the page you linked to, you can see it is a self-regulating community where dissenting views are not welcome. To the extent you link to webpages filled with bigoted crap, I’ll point it out to you.

    Unless you’d prefer I not — it is your blog and you make the rules.

    On topic, — I’ll try to put up an in depth post on religious binding arbitration sometime. It’s an interesting issue. I especially wonder why binding arbitration is necessary — shouldn’t fear of God be sufficient motivation to obey a relgious court?

  • DaninVan 06.13.04, 7:47 AM

    You said it Ikram “shouldn’t fear of God be sufficient motivation to obey…”
    What the hell’s that got to do with property division, divorce, minor disputes within the family or community, etc. I’m sorry, but you’re so totally brainwashed that you can’t even see the black humour in what you wrote.
    Arab Muslim’s are slaughtering Black Muslims in Sudan and you think Allah’s concerned about divorce settlements?!
    You need help girl.

  • Hanthala 06.13.04, 10:30 PM

    Danin: obviously you’ve misread my comments. I might not have been all that clear. Hope I am now…but I’m starving so we’ll see 🙂 I wasn’t defending the idea of Sharia in Canada, I was saying that Jewish law (however its called) is practiced here and that the coersion factor is also present in this case.

    Sari: I’m glad to hear that and I agree, but as was mentioned, the safeguards concerning Charter and other rights don’t mean that coersion is not present.

    8opus: Thanks for the correction, and I agree with your last point.

    OK Bon apetit!

  • Malia 06.13.04, 10:33 PM

    You’re so right! It reminds me of the interview I saw with a “Palestinian” female would-be suicide bomber. She had refused to wear make-up or revealing clothes because she didn’t want to offend God. Blowing up little babies is not a sin but putting on make-up is!!!? What a bunch of screwed up crazies!

    Lgf is a great blog. I read it occasionally and find it very educational. The people who post there are from every background. I’m sorry if the truth hurts but if you don’t like it change your religion and your culture. Stop blaming other people for your problems.

  • DaninVan 06.14.04, 1:21 AM

    Ikram; I’m a Jew and have lived in Canada all my life. I’d never even heard of this Beis Din Arbitration until the subject came up here and on other blogs. Obviously not terribly coercive (or popular).

  • segacs 06.14.04, 4:24 AM

    FYI: Va’ad Ha’ir – Montreal Beit Din.

    I don’t think I know anyone who’d ever used it either. But I might not know.

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