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The Shariah debate in Canada: Opponents are accused of not being "Real Muslims"

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  • Tarek Fatah
    Friends, As the Shariah debate rages in Canada, one of the key proponents of the law has claimed that opponents of the Shariah are not real Muslims . Syed
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 29, 2004

      As the Shariah debate rages in Canada, one of the key proponents of the law
      has claimed that opponents of the Shariah are not 'real Muslims". Syed
      Mumtaz Ali told the Toronto Star yesterday:
      "One cannot call oneself a real Muslim if one does not obey the Islamic law
      in such a comprehensive manner".

      Adding to this, Mohamed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress, another
      supporter of introducing Shariah in Canada, told the Toronto Star,
      "non-religious Muslims have no right to tell religious people what to do."
      Effectively telling Muslim opponents of Shariah that while he doesn't have a
      problem with non-Muslim Canadians debating the issue, he wants the rest of
      us shut out from challenging his position.

      His dictatorial edict follows an astonishing revelation made by Elmasry on
      Friday. He told the National Post on Friday that there may only be ONE
      person in all of Canada who was an expert in Shariah. He was responding to
      the Muslim Canadian Congress who oppose the resolving family matters using
      Shariah-based Arbitration. The MCC believe such Shariah courts are not only
      unconstitutional, but also racist, as they will further ghettoize Muslims.

      Mohammad Elmasry is reported as having said:
      "...there are only a handful of scholars in Canada who are fully trained in
      interpreting and applying Shariah law -- and perhaps as few as one..."

      He also provided a rare insight into the inner workings of this self-styled
      Shariah arbiter. He was quoted as saying:
      "The arbitrators "use gut feeling, they use common sense, and in many cases
      they are successful," in that their decisions are not appealed to a court or

      Justice based on "gut feeling"? Scary stuff.

      These statements about defining "real Muslims" and suggesting that
      "non-religious Muslims" not have the right to participate in this debate,
      should alarm Canada's Arab and Muslim population. There should be no room in
      our narrative for dictatorial and authoritarian sermons loaded with
      religious blackmail of determining "good" and "bad" Muslims and deciding who
      is permitted to participate in the making of the laws of this land
      Read and reflect.

      Tarek Fatah
      Aug. 28, 2004. 07:25 AM

      Muslim group opposes sharia law

      Argues it does not protect women
      Islamic body presents case to Boyd

      By Tarannum Kamlani and Nicholas Keung
      The Toronto Star

      Marion Boyd is at the centre of a storm of debate surrounding proposals to
      use Islamic sharia law in family disputes. Ontario's former attorney-general
      has been hearing from both sides of the controversial proposal since she was
      appointed in June by the province to review the 1991 Arbitration Act.
      Boyd's review began after a public outcry against the plan, introduced by
      the Islamic Institute for Civil Justice, which wants to use existing
      arbitration legislation to apply a form of sharia - a 1,400-year-old body of
      religious law - to settle disputes in the Muslim community.
      The practice would be permitted under the Arbitration Act, which allows
      religious groups to resolve civil family disputes within their faith,
      providing everyone gives their consent and the outcomes respect Canadian law
      and human rights codes.
      But the Muslim Canadian Congress doesn't think it will work that way.
      Along with several legal and women's groups, the congress has argued that
      sharia is flawed because it does not view women as equal and therefore
      cannot provide equal justice to all parties in a dispute especially on
      issues of divorce, child custody and division of property.
      "The weakest within the Muslim community, namely the women, will be coerced
      (into participating) by their community," said Tarek Fatah, founder of the
      congress during his group's submission to Boyd earlier this week.
      The group, formed two years ago, claims to have approximately 200 members
      across Canada.
      It is demanding the province suspend the ongoing review of the use of
      Islamic law to settle family disputes.
      It wants Boyd to refer the matter to the Ontario Court of Appeal.
      Calling the sharia-based arbitration proposal by the Islamic Institute for
      Civil Justice "racist and unconstitutional," congress lawyer Rocco Galati
      argued there is no such thing as a monolithic Islamic law.
      "No one has said what sharia law is supposed to be. There's 1.3 billion
      Muslims on five continents. There are many differences (among the groups),"
      Galati said.
      "There is a pretence that there is a Muslim law, just like saying there's an
      Asian law, an African law."
      He told Boyd that "there is a confusion here between religious freedom and
      injecting religion into public disputes."
      But Syed Mumtaz Ali, who made his presentation to Boyd on behalf of the
      institute, argues that freedom of religion as guaranteed under Canada's
      Constitution means not only freedom to practise and propagate religion but
      also to be able to be governed by one's religious laws in all aspects of
      one's life - spiritual as well as temporal, he noted.
      Ali, a Canadian-trained lawyer, said the Muslim tribunal would use and apply
      only those provisions of the sharia, which do not clash or conflict with any
      Canadian law, particularly the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The
      use of the word "sharia" is a misnomer, he added.
      "I must emphasize that we cannot, simply cannot, permit anyone to designate
      any Muslim arbitral tribunal as `sharia tribunal.' The name `The Muslim
      Court of Arbitration' (Darul Qada) is a registered business name. This was
      so registered primarily for the purpose of legally making it obligatory upon
      all not to call it `sharia Court,'" he explained in an e-mail response to
      the Star.
      "This is very basic, fundamental and crucial to Muslims because in a
      faith-oriented, Islamic way of life, as distinct from a secular way of life,
      to obey the religious laws in this way is crucial," Ali wrote.
      "One cannot call oneself a real Muslim if one does not obey the Islamic law
      in such a comprehensive manner. ... The Arbitration Act and the Islamic
      Institute of Civil Justice are not RACIAL because all races are equal under
      the Constitution."
      Ali has received some support from the Canadian Islamic Congress, which met
      with Boyd 10 days ago. Its president, Dr. Mohamed Elmasry said the Muslim
      Canadian Congress as "non-religious Muslims have no right to tell religious
      people what to do."
      Elmasry said religious Muslims in Canada are already using sharia to settle
      their disputes and the Institute proposal would add structure to the
      "This should be viewed as an experiment," said Elmasry. In addition to an
      imam, Elmasry said there should be Canadian-trained lawyers, women and
      elders in the community represented on a panel involved with sharia-based
      arbitration. "The community and the government should audit the process - if
      it is perceived as anti-woman, it will die a natural death," he said.
      Boyd will continue hearing submissions until next Friday.
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