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So, not cutting off the hands, eh?
August 23, 2004 9:00 PM   Subscribe

Islamic law, traditionally, as practiced in countries such as Iran, is being considered by courts in Ontario, Canada as to whether it should receive status as a legal manner of settling disputes through arbritration. Canadian women are worried it will be unjust.
posted by shepd (19 comments total)

 
Surely the point of any law is to apply it equally to all in the jurisdiction?
posted by dash_slot- at 9:11 PM on August 23, 2004


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posted by shepd at 9:15 PM on August 23, 2004


I know when I want the opinions of Canadian women, I like to look for editorials written by American men. Allowing muslims (along with, you know, Jews and Christians and other faith groups) to voluntarily follow their own practices in settling family disputes instead of litigating is definitely the first step on the slippery slope to having an Arabic speaking province in Canada. Give me a break.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:24 PM on August 23, 2004


As long as Canada's civil law is paramount, and any decisions made by an Islamic arbitration board cannot conflict with it, it would be ok (but maybe not possible?)
posted by amberglow at 9:33 PM on August 23, 2004


Court cases will still be decided under Canadian law. IANAL, but as I understand it, in Canada, when a couple gets divorced or otherwise has a civil dispute involving family law, they can choose to go to mediation or binding arbitration rather than court. If those processes are unsuccessful, then then a court case is filed.

So, essentially, this allows Muslims who wish to use sharia to arbitrate family law disputes to do so. It's not setting up a parallel legal system or anything like that.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 9:34 PM on August 23, 2004


but don't they use sharia to physically harm or murder each other as a form of settling disputes...? such as in the case of adultery, or when dowries aren't acceptable...? dagnabbit. it's so hard to keep track of all the fucking insane bullshit and who's doing it for what reason.
posted by t r a c y at 9:55 PM on August 23, 2004


I know when I want the opinions of Canadian women, I like to look for editorials written by American men.

Many Canadian Muslim women fear that the implementation of sharia will lead to women's rights abuses. Theoretically, sharia in Canada will still be bound by Canadian law. In practice, women's rights advocates fear that Muslim women will be afraid to come forward when the law is broken for fear of being ostracized and persecuted within their community. They will be pressured to submit to unlawful decisions by the sharia courts.


Allowing muslims (along with, you know, Jews and Christians and other faith groups) to voluntarily follow their own practices in settling family disputes instead of litigating is definitely the first step on the slippery slope to having an Arabic speaking province in Canada. Give me a break.

The difference, of course, is that religious arbitration in Jewish and Christian nations does not have as shocking a record of women's abuse as Islamic nations and sharia. By far.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:02 PM on August 23, 2004


Allowing muslims (along with, you know, Jews and Christians and other faith groups) to voluntarily follow their own practices in settling family disputes instead of litigating is definitely the first step on the slippery slope to having an Arabic speaking province in Canada. Give me a break.

That's not what this is about. People have always been allowed to settle disputes any way they like in Ontario, as long as it doesn't break the law and the results aren't binding. You could have a paintball fight for all the Queen cares.

*HOWEVER*, in this case results of islamic legal arbitration, if accepted, would be binding as long as they don't violate the Charter of Rights or Criminal Code as far as I can tell. But I'm not a lawyer. I just play one for people when they're desparate.
posted by shepd at 10:03 PM on August 23, 2004


(That should be Jewish and Christian communities rather than nations, really.)

Personally, however, I support keeping religion as far from the justice system as possible. Private religious arbitration is acceptable only if it is made sure that participation is voluntary and nonbinding.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:11 PM on August 23, 2004


So, essentially, this allows Muslims who wish to use sharia to arbitrate family law disputes to do so. It's not setting up a parallel legal system or anything like that.

Right, i'm sure the young girl who accidentally let a kid at school see her hair and has her father tote her off to a binding sharia law arbitration as sanctioned by the state is a full and free-acting partner in the decision to use sharia in the arbitration.
posted by rhyax at 10:12 PM on August 23, 2004


I think that keeping religious systems out of the courts is the way to do things right. If they want arbitration on top of that, fine. It should not be used in place of a secular court system.

I understand that sharia is often part of islamic culture, but that has little to do with civil law. A Canadian catholic can get a civil divorce and marry again, regardless of the Catholic Church's feelings. A muslim woman should be free to go to the court system, regardless of what the local Mosque says. And she should be able to do so without fear of retribution.
posted by Salmonberry at 10:17 PM on August 23, 2004


Arbitrators have to be certified by the state. If they're thought to have a particular bias towards one member of the family or another, they're unsuitable to serve. The Canadian civil system isn't going to be any more effective at preventing the abuse of youth by parents than sharia would be.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:28 PM on August 23, 2004


Here's an example of "sharia law" as it relates to females.

I agree with Salmonberry, why do people feel the need to mix this belief system with the judiciary of the state? If you are a practicing Muslim, you should follow the rules laid out in that faith tradition, as taught to you by your family and your Imam. If you do not wish to remain in that faith then fine, Canada is a free country. If you are a practicing Muslim then when your mosque says something you will do it, if you don't then you have left Islam, which you are free to do.

Who better to interpret Sharia law than the Imam at your mosque? Why would you want it interpreted by a state arbitrator? The only plausible reason is that you want it to be more binding than a religious leaders wishes would be. You want a set of rules which is religious in nature to be more binding then a religion to which its adherents freely associate. This is contrary to individual liberty.
posted by rhyax at 10:36 PM on August 23, 2004


"...if you don't then you have left Islam, which you are free to do."
Not so: leaving Islam is apostasy, for which the penalty in shari'a is death. I can almost hear the cry go up: 'but that won't happen here.' Just like arranged marriages, shame murders and youth betrothals don't.

Yeah right.
posted by dash_slot- at 12:55 AM on August 24, 2004


dash_slot, you just beat me to it--under sharia'a the penalty for leaving Islam is death. And don't get me started on adultery or the punishment for rape--punishment for the victim, that is--or the details of divorce, alimony, and child custody under sharia'a. Suffice it to say that a number of Canadian girls and women are about to find out what "miscarriage of justice" really means.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:51 AM on August 24, 2004


why do people feel the need to mix this belief system with the judiciary of the state?

…because the Q'uran is filled with legal rules. Unlike the bible or the Old Testament, the Q'uran is loaded with legal definitions. It says that women and men should be treated equally but then goes into rules detailing inheritance, divorce, types of witnesses, etc etc. For its time, the Q'uran was a very liberal document. But the times have changed and the interpretation of the Q'uran has not.

Now, when Arab nation took over Persia, the Persian culture took over Islamic thought and ideals. This culture was influenced heavily by the Hammurabi code that is filled with the notion of eye for an eye. Sharia'a law is an old legal system that was used, for better or worse, to strengthen Islam and the people in power. And as the people used the law to stay in power, they sent precedents. Sharia'a law is designed to grow but to not change. These precedents are very hard to change and are usually expanded on rather than refuted. And if a precedent has been around for a thousand years, it will take a long time for that system to change.

The Q'uran was developed after Muhammad's death and for the first 100 years, the interpretation of the Q'uran was open. Scholars and religous leaders discussed and made conclusions about the Q'uran, the Hadith and other religous documents. However, once those 100 years was up, the interpretation of the Q'uran was over. This makes the religion very inflexible to future evolutions. One of the big sticking points for the Islamic faith is that the reason why Islam exists is because Jews and Christians perverted the word of God. Islam can't change or else it will become like the former children of the book. Plus, Muhammad is considered the last prophet and thus his rules are considered final. How can a person complain that their inheritance was flawed when the Q'uran says that they should only receive so much? Now, I don't believe that the barbaric acts of violence that have become the public face of Sharia'a law are detailed in the Q'uran. I don't recall it saying that women should be stoned if they are raped. This is more of a product of culture and tradition I believe. These ideals are very hard to change.

Also, in the Q'uran, the role of government and religion is not separate and there is no precedent of secularism in Islam. The main schism in Islam was over who would be the political and religious leader of the Islamic Empire. Only in the last 100 years has secularism started to hammer at the Islamic traditions. However, without any political stability, economic growth or wide spread educational systems, secularism hasn't been able to wrestle law and government from many Islamic nations. Remember that it took the several hundred years for the Roman Catholic Church to lose political power in the west. The separation of church and state that many people enjoy did not occur over night. Right now, you could say that many Islamic groups are reacting to the "threat" of secularism by going back to traditions that are old. I don't agree with them but with the attacks on science by the religious right in the United States, it's hard to say that these Islamic groups are acting any different than their Christian brethren. The Islamic groups are embracing a system of law that is very brutal and backwards (in my opinion). But the motivation behind their actions is not that hard to understand once you look at the causes rather than the results.

But to get back to the topic at hand, the Canadian government could install limits on what can be arbitrated. if any crime has been committed, such as rape, then Canadian law takes control. However, if these Islamic groups want to embrace the rules of inheritance that is detailed in the Q'uran, I don't see what's wrong with that.
posted by Stynxno at 9:31 AM on August 24, 2004


Thin end of the wedge: today, a family agrees to disproportionately share the inheritance; tomorrow, the Islamists say "We've had shari'a for quite a while, so - hey lets extend it!" BTW, you can't leave...on penalty of death.

No. We've spent 500 years [nearly] disentangling the power of the christian church: why would we want to institute any law to do with another religion? Bizarre.

Styynxno - thanks for another dozen reasons.
Asparagirl - fastest fingers first!
posted by dash_slot- at 9:48 AM on August 24, 2004


When i say free to leave, I mean within the laws of Canada you are free to leave a religion. I would hope the actual laws of Canada would supersede the Sharia laws in a conflict and so I don't see the point in having the Sharia laws at all, since one conflict is whether or not the entire rule-set is optional, Sharia says no, Canadian law says yes, so we go with yes, so why bother.

If it's optional, then let it be optional, like any religious rule.
posted by rhyax at 10:46 AM on August 25, 2004


I see your point, rhyax:
this is gonna sound like flogging a dead horse, but anyway...
Many muslims [of whatever race, I acknowledge it is a multi-racial ideology] consider that their god's laws are superior to the laws of man. Some of their religious leaders claim legal authority to advocate the killing of what they deem 'apostates'.

Well, you know what they say - when murder is outlawed, only outlaws will kill illegally.

We in the West currently have cases in which women have been victims of honour killings due to misguided attempts at applying shari'a.

- I come down to what you say: why bother, no good can come of this.
posted by dash_slot- at 12:13 PM on August 25, 2004


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