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The Rise of Shari’a Arbitration is the Flag of Political Islam

By Homa Arjomand

Editorial introduction: The possibility of Shari'a courts in Ontario has raised concern among Muslim women, as reported in the Toronto Star recently. Homa Armojand is the campaign co-ordinator for the International Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada.

Once more I’d like to emphasize the presence of two forces operating within the Canadian Muslim community. One tries to implement Shari’a law with its repressive measures against women, while the other relies on modernism and secularism to resist such attempts.

The question I am asked time and time again by the media is: Since it was possible for Shari’a to be used from 1991 when the Ontario Arbitration Act was enacted, why do we care now?

The reality is that in 1991, political Islam did not show its flag. There was no overt political message because there was no apparent legal validation. The public was not aware of its hidden message.

But on October 23, 2003, the flag of political Islam was raised.

We, as activists for women’s rights in the Middle East, have experienced the oppression of political Islam and knew the danger if it gained legal credibility in Canada. We immediately called for an urgent international campaign. We believed that an attack on women’s rights in Canada would soon be followed by an attack on women’s rights across the oceans. Political Islam is global.

Historically, political Islam has proven to be a major force that imposed serious setbacks on women’s lives. Political Islam is a political movement that came into force against secular and progressive movements for liberation, and against cultural and intellectual advances. In the 1970’s the political Islamic movement grew stronger and became more widespread. In the 1980’s political Islam was supported and nurtured by western governments to be used in the conflicts and tensions of the cold war.

The key features of political Islam include opposition to the freedom of women, to women’s civil liberties and to freedom of expression. The enforcement of brutal laws and untouchable traditions made women’s homes into prisons. Women were excluded from many fields of work and from education. Their brutal treatment became the norm. Under political Islam women are second-class citizen who are denied their full legal rights.

We strongly believe that only the secular movement which is already present in our society can effectively counter political Islam.

We must repeal the Ontario Arbitration Act 1991. Only then we will be able to prevent Shari’a arbitration in Canada.

Homa Armojand is co-ordinator of The International Campaign Against Sharia Court In Canada. She can be emailed here: homawpi@rogers.com

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