Women Speak Out Against Approval of Shari'a Law Tribunals

June 8, 2004

Source: Toronto Star


On June 8, 2004 the Toronto Star reported, "Under the 1991 Arbitration Act, sharia-based marriage, divorce and family tribunals run by the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice are expected to begin later this year. The move has so horrified many Muslim women that they're vowing to stop the tribunals before they start. 'We've had a flood of e-mails from people, asking "How can we help?"' says Alia Hogben, president of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, whose 900 members come from a variety of Islamic sects. They were outraged that Muslim women could be coerced into taking part in sharia tribunals or face family and community ostracism — or worse. Why, they asked, should these women be treated differently from other Canadian women? 'When you come to Canada, you are a human being with full rights,' says Jonathan Schrieder, a Toronto civil litigation lawyer. Allowing sharia here — even a 'Canadianized' version, as its proponents claim — 'will subject Muslim women to a huge injustice.' Schrieder is so alarmed at the prospect that he, like a half-dozen other Toronto lawyers, has offered his services pro bono in the fight to halt it. Many others are appalled that Ontario is setting a precedent that other secular nations will be pressured to follow. To writer Sally Armstrong, whose work has taken her to several Muslim countries, Ontario's move is a 'human rights catastrophe.'"