Group Fights Islamic Law in Canada, Citing Infringment of Women's Rights

May 22, 2004

Source: Toronto Star

On May 22, 2004 the Toronto Star reported, "Last fall, [Homa] Arjomand, [a refugee immigrant to Canada from Iran and] now a transitional counsellor in Toronto for immigrant women, heard the province had quietly approved the use of Islamic law in Ontario's Muslim community. A group she'd never heard of, called the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice, had gained the right to hold tribunals, darul qada, in which marriage, family and business disputes can be settled according to sharia. The 1,300-year-old body of laws and rules for living was inspired by the Qur'an, Islam's holy book. Arjomand was horrified. 'The last thing I expected in Canada, the last thing I want, is sharia law,' she says. 'Women are not equal under it, therefore it is opposed to Canada's laws and values. The government can't let this happen.' The government has no intention of stopping it. Muslims can't be excluded from Ontario's 1991 Arbitration Act, which allows religious groups to resolve family disputes, says the attorney-general's office...Rulings are binding, but must be consistent with Canadian laws and the Charter of Rights. 'There are safeguards built into the act,' says Brendan Crawley, the attorney-general's spokesperson...'Participation must be voluntary by both parties and there is recourse if a decision doesn't abide by Canadian law. They can appeal to the courts.' Arjomand has heard all this and doesn't buy a word of it. Now head of the new International Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada, she and representatives from several concerned groups met last month with senior staff at the attorney-general's office and with Sandra Pupatello, the minister responsible for women's issues. Arjomand told them flatly that under the guise of protecting religious freedom and multiculturalism — the fear, perhaps, of offending the Muslim community's male leadership — they were about to let the rights of Canadian Muslim women be trampled on."