Canadian Muslim women welcome rejection of sharia tribunals
By Khalid Hasan
Washington: The Canadian Council of Muslim Women has welcomed the Quebec National Assembly’s unanimous adoption of a motion declaring that no Muslim tribunals for family matters will be allowed in the province, and that the laws of Quebec will apply to all its residents, regardless of religion, ethnicity or culture.
The Council said, “This public motion is a courageous act and though it may be criticised by some, its message is strong that religious women will not be isolated and placed under any other form of law. Quebec has clearly understood that different laws for different citizens lead to discrimination and have nothing to do with multiculturalism or Quebec’s Charter of Rights and Freedom. Our regret is that the motion did not include a statement that no religious laws shall be used. This move towards separate laws, according to religion, is being advocated by other religious groups and is not restricted to Muslims only. We hope that Ontario will follow the same reasoning and demonstrate courage to state unequivocally that all Ontario families must be treated equally under the laws of the land.
Conservative Islamic groups in neighbouring Ontario province have been campaigning for an enactment that will allow family matters relating to Muslims to be adjudicated upon under sharia. The bid has been opposed by progressive Muslims and several women’s groups, with the latter taking the position that if the move is successful, it would abridge women’s rights and place them at the mercy of those who hold anti-feminist and puritanical views.
The Canadian Council of Muslim Women said, “Ontario should not discriminate against religious women nor isolate them because of their faith. The government should also not be persuaded that there is a conflict between religious freedom and women’s equality rights, nor that pluralism should lead to segregation of citizens on the basis of religion, ethnicity or race. It is a fallacy which shows a lack of understanding and caring when the facile argument is made that the use of private legally binding arbitration is a matter of ‘choice’ or that it is ‘voluntary’.”
Salam El Menyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, however, expressed outrage at the Quebec assembly’s rejection of the sharia tribunal demand. In a statement, he said, “Taking such action is tantamount to religious bigotry and discrimination against a religious minority. Muslims are being excluded from rights other religions have. And this exclusion is very dangerous because that is exactly what Hitler did to Jews.” He added, “I have been inundated with calls and e-mails from the Muslim community asking that we should file a complaint with the United Nations.” In Ontario, Jews and Aga Khani Ismailis are allowed their own tribunals that decided family-related disputes.
Earlier, Liberal Party member of the Quebec Assembly Fatima Houda-Pepin, who introduced the motion, said sharia law would discriminate against women. She said fringe Muslim religious groups are seeking to use the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to impose religious values that undermine Canada’s democratic institutions. “Demanding the implementation of the sharia in Canada is a tantamount to a takeover attempt aimed at undermining our democracy, our system of justice.” Ms. Houda-Pepin, who is a Morocco-born Muslim, said that for the last few years, Canada has become the stage of an intensive battle for control of the Muslim community.