Law Provision Allows for Use of Islamic Law Courts to Settle Civil Disputes

April 28, 2004

Source: The Washington Post

On April 28, 2004 The Washington Post reported, "[T]housands of...Muslims, taking advantage of a provision of the law in the province of Ontario, can now decide some civil disputes under sharia, including family disagreements and inheritance, business and divorce issues, using tribunals that include imams, Muslim elders and lawyers. While it is less than full implementation of sharia, local leaders consider it a significant step. Muslim promoters of sharia arbitration said that no cases had been decided but that the process is set. Islamic leaders created an Islamic Court of Civil Justice last fall and that organization, in turn, has chosen arbitrators, who have undergone training in sharia and Canadian civil law, according to organizers and participants...Some Muslim leaders in Canada said that there should be no controversy about the new arbitration process, but some opponents expressed concern that people might feel coerced into accepting sharia-based arbitration. Government officials said that the decision to submit to such a process was subject to mutual consent. A 1991 Ontario arbitration law permits such arbitration according to religious principles, just as rabbis in Jewish communities and priests in Christian communities help to resolve civil disputes, said Brendan Crawley, a spokesman for the Ontario attorney general."