Thursday, June 2, 2005

Canada: Quebec rejects Sharia to preserve equality and rights.

Date: Thursday 2 June 2005
Subj: Canada: Quebec rejects Sharia to preserve equality and rights.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

On 26 May Quebec's legislative assembly unanimously rejected the use of Sharia tribunals. Quebec is the first Canadian province to explicitly ban the use of Sharia Law (Islamic Law), and they are doing so to preserve equality, rights and liberty for all irrespective of race or religion.

The Canadian Council of Muslim Women has cheered the decision and hailed it as courageous.

Meanwhile, the president of the Muslim Council of Montreal likened the decision to Hitler's treatment of the Jews, and hinted that it might consider filing a complaint to the United Nations. Of course this would be quite a legitimate course of action now that the UNCHR has agreed to monitor "defamation" of Islam by "extremists" who "wrongly" associate Islam with human right violations.

October 2003 ONTARIO
At a conference in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada, in October 2003, Muslim delegates elect a 30-member council to establish the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice. Muslims move to establish Sharia Arbitration Courts whose rulings will be enforced by Canada's secular courts. For background see: Canada: Applying Shariah through Islamic arbitration. 15 Dec 03

December 2004 ONTARIO
Ontario attorney general Marion Boyd issues a report recommending that Muslims in Canada should have the right to seek arbitration based on their religious laws.


On 26 May, Liberal backbencher Fatima Houda-Pepin, who was born a Muslim in Morocco, put forward a motion in the Quebec Assembly to reject Sharia tribunals in Quebec. Ms Houda-Pepin told members of the Assembly that Sharia Law discriminates against women. She
alleged that Muslim women in Canada want to integrate and the drive to introduce Sharia Law in Canada "is part of a strategy to isolate the Muslim community, so it will submit to an archaic vision of Islam. These demands," she continues, "are being pushed by groups in the minority that are using the Charter of Rights to attack the foundation of our democratic institutions. It's a political agenda in the name of Islam." (Link 1)

She also cautioned that any move to allow Islamic family law would lead to similar demands in criminal and civil legal areas.

RESPONSE from the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW)

CCMW press release (excerpts): "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.

"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 leads to discrimination and has nothing to do with multiculturalism or Quebec’s Charter of Rights and Freedom."

Regarding the present debate in Ontario over whether or not to introduce Sharia tribunals CCMW 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'.

"We urge Premier McGuinty to demonstrate leadership so that Canada does not set a precedent which is of grave concern to the international community." (Link 2)

RESPONSE from the Muslim Council of Montreal (Quebec)

The Daily Times (Pakistan) reported the outrage of Salam El Menyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, who fumed, "'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.'" (Link 3)


According to an article in Canada's National Post, Ms Houda-Pepin claimed that Islamic fundamentalists from the Muslim World League, based in Saudi Arabia, held a conference in Washington in 1991, where Canada, because of it's rights guarantees and official multiculturalism, was specifically targeted for the introduction of Sharia. (Link 4)

She claims the Islamist plan is to set Canada up as a precedent for all Muslims in the West, encouraging them to reject Western laws and push for Sharia where they are.

The National Post reported, "Ms. Houda-Pepin also wondered what form of sharia would be adopted in Canada, noting that it means different things in different countries.

"In Pakistan, a woman who is raped can be flogged unless she can produce four male witnesses to prove she was raped, she said, while in Nigeria a woman can be stoned to death for sexual relations outside marriage. Sharia in Iran allows men to have as many 'wives of pleasure' as they want, she noted. In Saudi Arabia, in the name of sharia, a woman cannot drive a car.

"The victims of sharia have a human face," she said. "They are Muslim women."

There is concern that if Sharia Arbitration tribunals exists then Muslim women might find themselves pressured to sign pre-nuptial agreements promising to use Sharia arbitration in the event of a dispute, thus depriving them of the rights available to non-Muslims.

It should also be noted that according to Sharia family law, Muslims who commit apostasy (leave Islam) are automatically divorced and lose custody of their children. According to Canada's rules of arbitration, Canada's secular courts are obliged to enforce the religious rulings.

The National Post quotes Marilou McPhedran, legal counsel to the Canadian Counsel of Muslim Women, as saying that there was "a well-intentioned naivete about this [Boyd] report. Why would we in Ontario privatize family law when we already have a public system of family law that is predicated on the constitutional values of equality in this country, in this province, that should be available to each and every woman living in Ontario," she said.

Canadian Press reports, "Premier Jean Charest's Liberals are putting pressure on the Ontario government, which is expected to make a decision [regarding Sharia law] before summer. Charest said he simply wants to send a clear message that all Quebecers are equal under the law. 'It's important to send a very clear message that there is one rule of law in Quebec,' Charest told reporters. 'We are a very inclusive society, but a society that will govern itself according to one set of rules'." (Link 1)

- Elizabeth Kendal


1) Quebec rejects introduction of Sharia law into legal system in the province

2) CCMW Welcomes Quebec motion on Sharia law. 27 May 2005

3) Canadian Muslim women welcome rejection of sharia tribunals
By Khalid Hasan, 29 May 2005

4) National Post: Quebec bans sharia
Blow to proponents of using Islamic law in Canadian society
Kevin Dougherty, with files from Mike de Souza, Elizabeth Thompson
and Lee Greenberg
CanWest News Service, 27 May 2005