CP and Free Press staff 2005-09-05 03:56:14
long-delayed decision on whether to formally include -- and regulate -- Shariah religious arbitration in the province has raised
alarms among Canadian and European women's groups, dissidents from hardline Islamic states such as
groups have banded together under the banner of the International Campaign
Thursday, they'll march in six cities in Europe and at least five in
cannot happen in
Sohaila Sharifi, an Iranian emigrant organizing a protest in front
of the Canadian High Commission in
they win this fight in
would use the same argument to establish the same religious system here in
The "they" in question represent an odd, informal coalition of hardline Islamic fundamentalists, mainstream Muslim groups and Boyd, who studied the issue for the province and came up with the proposal.
vision of provincially regulated religious arbitration -- an existing
15-year-old system that would be further tightened under the mantle of
Boyd said things
are different in places such as
"There's no distinction there between civil and criminal law, so you can be punished criminally for a civil issue like adultery or fornication," she said. "People have reason to be fearful of that, because they have experienced the excesses of that kind of regime."
report was prompted by a retired Muslim lawyer, who, in 2003, announced he was
setting up the Islamic Institute for Civil Justice to train arbitrators to use
The province ducked for cover by asking Boyd to examine the issue. It has sat on her report since last December.
In the meantime, opponents have dug in.
"The volatility of the debate has a lot to do with what people have experienced . . . in countries like Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, where there is no doubt that Islamic law -- particularly these medieval rules of law -- are being enforced in various ways and have the effect of discriminating against women," said Anver Emon, a U.S. scholar in Islamic law at the University of Toronto.
But Emon said both extremes in the debate are defining Islamic law as a medieval model that won't fit in the modern Canadian context.
"What's interesting is both of these (warring) groups have the same conception of Shariah: it's these medieval rules," he said.