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Sensationalism shrouds the debate on sharia - Toronto Star, Canada

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  • Zafar Khan
    Sensationalism shrouds the debate on sharia Haroon Siddiqui says hysteria shows lack of faith in Canada HAROON SIDDIQUI
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 13, 2005
      Sensationalism shrouds the debate on sharia
      Haroon Siddiqui says hysteria shows lack of faith in
      Canada

      HAROON SIDDIQUI

      http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1118441412593&call_pageid=968256290204&col=968350116795

      More than stopping sharia, we need to stop the
      hysteria surrounding it. So misleading and dishonest
      has the debate been that it reveals more about our
      political and media prejudices than the minority in
      question.

      A request by a small Ontario Muslim group to start
      faith-based family mediation or arbitration between
      two consenting adults — a practice long used by
      Christians (Mennonites and Catholics in particular),
      Jews (especially the Orthodox) and one sect of
      Muslims, the Ismailis — has been blown up into the
      spectre of Taliban-like justice coming to Canada.

      No sharia is coming. No sharia can come. If anyone
      implemented any unlawful practice, he or she will go
      to jail.

      Those saying otherwise are either ignorant or
      malevolent.

      They are also showing little or no faith in Canada,
      believing, as they must, that our system of justice
      and law enforcement will only be a silent spectator to
      the hijacking of our rule of law.

      The latest to jump on the bandwagon is the Quebec
      National Assembly, unanimously passing a resolution
      against the phantom enemy.

      Quebec city has not been asked to authorize any
      Islamic justice, only the right to grant religious
      divorce to Muslim women believers who want it, just
      like Jewish women asking for the get, the religious
      divorce, or Catholics seeking annulment.

      But that stirred the Jean Charest government and the
      opposition Parti Québécois into mounting their
      soapboxes. Leading the chorus was Liberal backbencher
      Fatima Houda-Pepin, the lone Muslim MNA.

      She is entitled to her views, of course. But her
      Muslim background is not irrelevant. She has used it
      to play the ethnic broker, and is found useful
      precisely because of it. But she's reportedly not a
      practising Muslim, which is her right. Also, she does
      not represent Muslims. In fact, she is reviled by many
      of them.

      She also uses scare tactics, invoking Afghanistan,
      Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. What
      do those backwaters have to do with Canada? We live
      here, not there.

      She peddles a conspiracy theory as well, namely, that
      Islamists have a plot to control Canadian Muslims and
      use the Charter of Rights to sabotage it. In reality,
      what they have done is to advocate their point of
      view, something she is intolerant of.

      She likes those Muslims who agree with her, such as
      the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and Muslim
      Canadian Congress. They, too, are entitled to their
      views. But the former has a reported membership of
      1,000 and the latter fewer, out of 650,000 Canadian
      Muslims.

      Yet the media, too, keep quoting them, out of laziness
      or because they like what they hear.

      The irony is that only a tiny minority of Muslims may
      make use of faith-based mediation or arbitration. But
      the majority are fully tuned to the larger issue: Are
      Muslims going to be denied rights available to others?

      There is no proof that Canadian Muslim women are any
      more subject to denial of their rights because of
      immigrant status, social pressures or lack of English
      or French than other women seeking faith-based
      arbitration.

      Houda-Pepin's role is akin to having a secular
      dissident Catholic or Orthodox Jew ordering others how
      to practise their faith. And being rewarded for it by
      being asked to lead a provincial assembly in denying
      them fundamental rights.

      Such is the anti-Muslim tenor of the post-9/11 times,
      especially in Quebec.

      The Quebec human rights commission remains silent on
      whether or not Muslim girls can wear a hijab in
      private schools.

      McGill University has just locked out Muslim students
      from the room they've been using for their five daily
      prayers. The eviction is being justified in the name
      of secularism, even as 20 universities across Canada
      continue to accommodate Muslims, often in multi-faith
      spaces.

      The issue of sharia, among others, is not about
      Muslims alone. It is a test case of whether the Dalton
      McGuinty government, and others, will pander to
      prejudices or stand up for the basic principles of our
      democracy.

      Haroon Siddiqui, The Star's editorial page editor
      emeritus, writes Sundays and Thursdays.
      hsiddiq@....






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