Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sharia In Canada

I went for a walk to Queen's Park (Ontario government legislature building) during lunch hour today. There was a rally there, held to protest the arrival of Sharia Law in Canada. A counter protest, defending the Sharia, was also supposed to be held, but I could not find it. I attended the rally for 10-15 minutes, heard a couple of speakers and then left. Below are my comments, observations and opinions of the whole affair.

The word Sharia refers to laws and regulations derived from the Quran (holy book of Muslims) or Sunnah (practice of God's messengers). Now why is this religion-based arbitration coming to Canada? As Christians and Jews can already refer civil and marital disputes to be settled under religious law, former Ontario Attorney General Marion Boyd recommended this be extended to Muslims as well.

Now I have a couple of issues with this. First, why restrict it to Muslims, Christians and Jews? Why not extend it to Sikhs, Jains, Wiccans, and anyone who can claim their religion has a set of laws for civil and marital issues? Second, if you oppose religious laws in a secular country, again why restrict your opposition to the Sharia? Why not also oppose religious arbitration from all religions?

There are people who think that Islamic law is ancient, out-of-date and has no place in a modern society. There are no problems with Christians and Jews because 'their' laws are modern and in synch with our society.

I beg to differ. The problems are not religious laws. The problem is with interpretation, and the judges.

It is this difference in interpreting the laws and holy books that, for example, has no problem with most Christians accepting blood transfusions or donating blood, but prevents Jehovah's Witnesses Christians from doing the same. It is this differences in interpreting the laws that enables some Catholics to spank their children as they see fit while others hold it as child abuse. Similarly, there are different interpretations of Islamic law. The same statement in the Quran can lead to two different verdicts, or fatwas.

As to problem with the judges, well, they are the ones going to do the interpreting. Most laws usually deal with punishment to the criminal and says nothing about gender, ethnicity, race, etc. A street bum holds a child and sexually assaults him. The judge jails the man. A priest sexually assaults a child. The judge secretly transfers him to another parrish. Fault of the Christian laws, or of the judge? Similarly, when a Muslim judge punishes a woman adulterer and yet lets the man go free, its the judge's fault, not the laws. The law says punish the adulterer. No gender emphasis.

Now I have some things to say to both groups (pro and against Sharia).

Anti: If you have sharia in Canada women can be stoned to death.
Oh, shut the f*** up. No one is going to do that here. Civil and marital disputes means just that. Custody of kids, splitting the house in a divorce, claiming gold given to in-laws etc. And these are almost always tilted towards women in Islamic law.
Pro: You must support Sharia for the sake of Allah.
No, for the sake of Allah, stop telling me what to do. The Imam-knows-best attitude is one reason why so-called-Sharia has not worked in so-called Muslim countries.

Anti: Canadian law for Canadian citizens.
Well, what about other religious groups that practice their laws? Why don't you campaign against ALL religious arbitration. Why is your campaign called No-SHARIA? Why the focus of Islamic law?
Pro: Muslims need Sharia.
Why? How have the Canadian laws failed us so far? What's missing? Give me a list.

Finally, I have a few comments to say to the no-sharia rally people.

Most of the people seemed to be non-Muslims. The media has made a big thing about how many Muslims, particularly women, are campaigning hard against it. I did not see that. Not even one hijabi in the crowd. Muslim Canadians are like most Canadians - politics - most of them don't care.

Two, again, why vilify Islam? All religious have laws that seems to be archaic to some people today. Why not secular law for all? I picked up their literature. I admit they DO have an item on their agenda that says "No religious arbitration and/or any principles that violate the Canadian Charter". But they never mention that in their speeches, interviews, etc. The focus is on prevention of Sharia. Seems very hypocritical to me.

In conclusion, I would be very wary of any religious laws in Canada. Most guys in charge of implementing them are too concerned with the letter of the law, rather than upholding the spirit of the law. But the way the No-Sharia group has organized their protest, they seem hypocritical, anti-Islam, anti-McGuinty and have found a convenient outlet for their racist leanings.


katy said...

You know I shouldn't say anything, but I'm going too. I absolutely agree that when you get down to applying religion to day-to-day life, the devil is in the interpretation (so to speak). Christian texts in particular are ambiguously written so that it can be used to support -any- viewpoint at -any- time.

And I can't comment towards a lot of the rest because quite frankly, and ashamedly, I don't follow Canadian politics - at all.

However, I can give one reason for knee-jerk vilification of Islam. People who were born, raised and live in the western world are usually introduced to Islam through the study of "Islamic States". Often that's the only exposure we get. It's difficult to seperate the leaders of those countries from the actual religion because the leaders themselves don't make a seperation.

So our idea of Islam alone is tainted with stories of women being jailed and whipped because they let their hair show. Or a man feeling he "had" to kill his sister because she was raped. Of course that isn't, and shouldn't be, the norm in a religion...but when all you get is that and no one points out the's easy to create a villian out of an idea.

Basically it's all ignorance masked with a lot of misinterpretation.

Brilliant make so much sense!!!

mezba said...

Yup Katy,

Having lived in Bangladesh, UAE (both which practise a 'tolerant' Islam), and Pakistan, Saudi Arabia (both which have a 'strict' interpretation), I am very wary of anyone trying to force their 'religious' views on me. Religion is personal, according to my view.

- Mezba

Rob said...

One of the reasons that the United States first in its 1791 Bill of Rights, and then Canada as it slowly acquired freedom to rule itself, instituted 'separation of church and state' is exactly the point made here. Religion unfortunately is too often left to the interpretation of judges who put their own spin on the laws. They use it to beat over the head any group they want to control, which usually is either women, children or the poor.
There is no place in a democratic society for such law givers.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to bring to your attention a typo that you have in this post. You wrote "Sunnah (practice of God's messengers)". It should be Sunnah (practice of God's messenger Muhammad (PBUH)). God had thousands of messengers and the Sunnah are the sayings and doings of the last Messenger. I just wanted to bring it your attention since many kufr read your blog and they will be mislead.