The following article is a selected parts of the speech delivered at Kitchener/Ontario on September 8, 2005

 

The two global movements over Sharia law in Ontario/Canada: By Morteza Jabbari

 

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine who is a Muslim e-mailed me an article from Globe and Mail and I would like to read a few sentences  from this article because it makes my job much easier for what I want to say today: The tile is “sharia protesters targets Canada. A campaign against Ontario allowing Sharia tribunals to resolve family disputes has spread to Europe, where protesters are planed for Sept. 8 in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Düsseldorf and Stockholm.

 

The article continues to say that “As many as 89 international groups have spoken out against an Ontario law allowing faith-based arbitration, saying it will create a precedent for religious fundamentalists working to suppress women’s rights, and give fodder to political Islamists in Europe who are lobbing for Sharia law to be used to settle family matters”.

 

And I am asking myself what is going on here? Apparently, in one of Canada’s most so called multicultural province of Ontario a group of  Muslim wants to solve the family dispute according to their religion and/or their culture and we are witnessing a world wide movement against it?   Why is that? Why is that that all progressive people around the world are watching us closely, sending us their solidarity and support? Why is that that a Tunisian member of parliament tells Jean-Marc Lalonde liberal MPP in Canada that he is monitoring the Ontario’s decision? “They are scared”, “ he said. “They are paying attention to what Ontario’s going to do.

 

 In my speech today, I would like to discuss two issues. First, the connection between the attempt to establish an Islamic court in Canada and the global reactionary movement of the Political Islam. Second, briefly touch on the issue of multiculturalism as a tool in the hand of political Islamist to achieve their purposes.

 

In both parts, I will cite many quotes from Mr. Said Mumtaz Ali, the president of the Canadian Muslims’ Society, who has also proposed the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice. He is also the driving force behind the Islamic court. The following are Mr. Ali’s opening remarks in the Institute and I really would like you to listen to his statements carefully: He says: “Every religion in the beginning is a minority affair.” He continues to say that how the profit of Islam and the early Muslims suffered persecution and other hardship to “establish the first Islamic state within a territory not exceeding a few kilometers”. He adds, “Hardly, fifteen years after his death, the profit’s followers ruled over three continents. They later entered Europe and expanded their domain in Asia and Africa.”

 

When I read this remarks and probably while I was reading these sentences for you, we are all asking ourselves what is the relevancy between the proposal of an Islamic Court in Ontario and talking about conquering the world. I am not citing from an imam or a religious leader who lived 500 or one 1000 years ago. I am citing the opening statements of a man who is the main force behind an Islamic court in Ontario in the meeting for this purpose. Mr. Ali is the person who made his presentation to Marion Boyd on behalf of the Institute. In his presentation he argues that freedom of religion as guaranteed under Canada’s Constitution means not only freedom to practice and propagate religion but also to be able to be governed by one’s religious law in all aspects of one’s life—spiritually as well as temporal. He believes that “This is very basic, fundamental and crucial to Muslim because in a faith-oriented, Islamic way of life, as distinct from a secular way of life, to obey the religious laws in this way is crucial. One can not call oneself a real Muslim if one does not obey the Islamic law in such a comprehensive manner”. In a minute I get back to this point about the connection between an Islamic court in Ontario and political Islam.

 

 

But for now let’s see what happen to someone who is not a real Muslim. According to Mr. Ali “Blasphemy—it includes a denial of any of the essential principles of Islam. A Muslim convicted of blasphemy is sentenced to death in Mohammedan countries. The apostate has to choose between Islam and the sword”. And of course, he is right. In the Islamic countries like Iran where I am coming from, Muslim women are being stoned for adultery. Thousands of political prisoners’ men and women were executed in 1989 after less than a one minute trial where they said that they did not believe in God. And in non Islamic countries such as the Netherlands where the political Islamists are not in power Mr. Van Gogh was being killed in a “ritualistic murder”, as the prosecutors said, committed in the name of radical Islam. A note stuck to his body with a knife threatened the Somalian born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali who wrote the script of Mr. Van Gogh’s film Submission.

 

And this is my point. What is going on in Ontario/Canada, in the Netherlands in Europe, in some parts of Middles East and Africa, they are all parts of one reactionary global movement of political Islam. Political Islamists have their governments or have a big influence in some part of the Middle East and Africa. Now they have targeted western countries.  In Western countries they are putting pressure on the parties in power to get involved in and play a role in the changing of the social fabric, especially in the areas of education and law.

 

 And I think it is why we are witnessing today another global movement and of course a progressive movement to fight against it.  As I said before what is going on today is not only a conflict over whether family disputes should be solved in an Islamic court or solved in a secular court. This is also a battle between a progressive movement which wants to keep what we have achieved in Western societies since the renaissance and maintain the separation of religion-- any kind of religion-- from the state, from the education system. And a regressive movement which wants to turn the clock back and want to treat people according to the laws, culture and traditions of one thousands and four hundred years ago. When you see Mr. Ali chooses the word sword for killing an apostate when he says: The apostate has to choose between Islam and the sword”.  

And the same time we see Mr. Van Goe is being murdered in the Netherlands in a ritualistic way. And at the same time we see in so called Islamic counties the governments are stoning,  hanging and lashing people in public in order to maintain the Islamic way I think you will agree with me the connection and the common mentality and common ideology between those who  attempt to establish the Islamic court in Canada, those who are behind the murder of Mr. Van Gue in Europe and the Islamic governments in Middle East and Africa. It is not surprising then we when hear that a Tunisian member of parliament expresses his fear of what is going on in Ontario.

 

 

 

Now I would like to touch briefly on the issue of multiculturalism as a barrier in our struggle to fight the Sharia law in Ontario in particular and Political Islam in general.   I think political Islamists use multiculturalism as practical tool and cultural relativism as the ideological tool and we have to disarm them in these fronts as well. The problem here is that in our universities especially in the social work field the dominant approach is the doctrine of cultural relativism, which believes all cultures are equal and believes people should be treated and judged based on their own culture and of course promote multiculturalism. And as some one argued to Boyd and I quote: “If we are truly to be an open and pluralstic society in Canada, then the different religious practices making up Canada’s mosaic must be accommodated”.  And I am not really sure if I have any grounds or reasons to challenge Mr. Ali when he claims that an Islamic court in secular Canada “shows the real spirit of our multicultural society”. And I think this is the problem. You can’t tell the so called “minority groups” to practice their religions and culture the way you want or as Ms. Boyd suggests put safeguards on their practices. According to Mr. Ali who knows his religion better than Ms. Boyd there is no separation of state and church, the temporal and the spiritual, unlike the Christian system of secularism. And I %100 percent agree with him. For a Muslim, he says, practice of his/her religion …is a full time, 24 hour occupation.

 

You see, we can’t sit between two chairs. We are either the citizen of Canadian society and one law applies to all of us regardless of our religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or we are divided into different races, cultures, genders and then of course we should be treated or as Mr. Ali believes governed by our culture and religions. You may ask me why we can’t have both: Why can’t I be a Muslim and at the same time is a Canadian citizen. My answer is yes we can be both as far as religion remains a private matter for people. And I think Even our private or personal choices must be limited as they are. We as individuals’ adults have the choice to use or not for example alcohol or drugs but as parents our choices are limited. If your choice impedes your parenting ability then the Children’s Aid Society’s worker takes you to the family court and then you have to approve that you are able to meet your child needs while consuming drugs or alcohol.  It is very simple my personal choice must not violate other people rights although the other person is my child or my wife.

 

I am a social worker who is working with people from different cultures and religion. Both when I was student in university and now that I am working in the field, sometimes I have discussion or even have conflict with my professors, fellow students or fellow workers. As I said before, the dominant approach in universities is cultural relativism and of course the practical result is multiculturalism. Talking about other people culture and religion is a taboo. I have been told many times by my  professors, fellow students and fellow workers that they cant comment on for example the subordination of women in Islam as a religion or culture because they will label to be racist. They say: “We are outsiders”. And I think I understand their frustrations. 

 

Fortunately this trend is changing. Sometimes we see articles in newspapers criticizing multiculturalism and how multiculturalism breeds hate or leads ghetoism.  And I think this trend is very promising.

 

In the end, what I am asking for is we should not let the Ontario government to use multiculturalism, cuts in spending, waiting time in court, as an excuse to compromise with this reactionary religious movement by allowing each religious community to apply their own religious laws. The universality of human rights women rights, children rights must not be compromised at any cost.