Is Canada next?

On the Plan to Establish a Sharia Court in Ontario , Canada

Azar Majedi

 When I heard about the Sharia court in Canada , I first thought it was a joke. When I realised it was real, that it was really happening; when I read that soon Islamic courts may become a reality in Canada , I was overwhelmed. I was shocked. It sounded like a fantasy world. As a friend called it: the Islamic Republic of Canada is coming into being. I thought of my friends, like Homa Arjomand, who escaped one Islamic republic only to end up in another. How many Islamic republics do we have to fight? One in Iran , one in Afghanistan , fighting the creation of another in Iraq , and now one in Canada .

 I am sure right now some of you will think: ‘please don’t exaggerate, this is going too far. This is not about the whole of Canada ; it is only about the so-called Muslim community. And it is only going to concern the civil and the family codes not other legal aspects. You are talking as though there is going to be stonings on the streets of Toronto , and furthermore, this is a voluntary matter; no one is forced to go to these courts if they do not choose to. It is purely going to be their choice.’ Fine. Let’s examine and see whether I am exaggerating or if this statement is underestimating the graveness of the situation and the extreme risk we are taking vis-à-vis women’s, children’s and human rights.

 Defence of this legislation is based on fallacies.

 The first is the argument that by creating Islamic courts parallel to the national courts - that is by allowing every community to have its own judicial system - we are respecting the rights of minorities, and by doing this we are thereby creating a less discriminatory society and supposedly a more egalitarian one. This is a totally false assumption. By defining the rights of communities as opposed to the rights of individuals or rather citizens, we are discriminating against a section of the society. We are depriving some citizens of their equal rights and universal rights recognised by the society. Before the law, we should recognise citizens and not collectives or communities. By recognising communities and assigning some arbitrary rights based on a particular culture or religion to that collective we are leaving the members of that particular community at the mercy of the inherent power struggle of the community. The so-called leaders of that community, be it elders or mullahs, are gaining power over the individuals.

 To recognise two or more sets of values, laws and rights in a single society is a discriminatory practice. By doing this, we are, in fact, defining different categories of citizens, and to do that on the basis of different ethnicity, religion and culture is nothing but racism, pure and simple. We are assigning different laws, rights and norms and standards to each different ethnic or religious group.

 The concept of citizen and citizen’s rights are modern concepts achieved by decades of libertarian struggle. The reduction of the Church’s power over society is another achievement. The world has made important strides towards the recognition of concepts such as human rights. In fact, the struggle against sexism and for women’s rights has been such a process.

 In the case of Islamic courts and empowering them with legal procedures regarding civil disputes or family disputes, we are leaving women in so-called Muslim communities at the mercy of Islamic laws and traditions, which are clearly discriminatory against women. There has been a long battle in countries under the rule of Islam by the women’s liberation movement to achieve a secular system and secular legislation in order to diminish discrimination against women and promote the recognition of equal rights for women in the realm of family as well as the society as a whole.

 The second fallacy is the argument that says referrals of family disputes to Islamic courts and Islamic arbitration is voluntary and a matter of personal choice. This argument sounds very libertarian and legitimate. But this is only a fancy façade for imposing a patriarchal value system on women and children. Intimidation and force of communal moral pressure are tools of keeping women subjugated. No human being in her right mind would choose to deprive herself of equal rights, and into a subordinate position. Under the patriarchal value system, such as Islamic traditions and norms, women are deprived of equal rights in matters such as marriage, divorce, custody and running of family matters and family disputes. Women in these communities are forced by intimidation and the communal moral pressure to accept this inequality as the norm, as the natural and divine law, and to respect it. Creating a legal system and empowering the so-called leaders of the community with legal powers as well as religious and moral power will reduce the choice for women to live a more equal life. It will diminish women’s rights to equal opportunity; it will isolate women from the broader society and ghettoise their lives. Any women’s rights activist and analyst will tell you that the family and the dynamism of family life and family order are the pillars of women’s subordination in the society. Some argue that Islamic courts only deal with mundane issues, such as family law. This is a self-serving argument to fog the real issues involved. The women’s liberation movement has fought long and hard to reform family laws and the structure of power inside the family. By recognising Islamic courts we are turning the clock back for women living under Islamic traditions. The society is duty-bound to offer every woman equal opportunity and equal access to equal and universal laws. No one has the right to deny any woman, whether in Islamic communities, Jewish or any other, from this basic right. In an environment based on patriarchy, an old value system, and traditions so clearly misogynist, there can be no question of exercising your choice freely. The choice will be that of the strong partner in the relationship.

 In the past decades, we have witnessed a glorification of culture as a primary issue dictating people’s lives and rights. Culture has come to take precedence over human rights, equality, liberation, rights of individuals, children’s rights and women’s rights - concepts and issues which have long been argued and have prominence in modern and civilised civil societies. The birth of cultural relativism and its recognition in the society as a credible concept is the result of this process. I ask you why an arbitrary concept such as culture must be so glorified so as to take precedence over prominent issues such as freedom, equality and justice. Why should people be categorised and placed in different pigeonholes according to culture or religion. These should be private matters. There is no justification for assigning such a prominent status to culture, which overshadows any sense of justice, equality and freedom and the achievements of long battles fought by freedom loving people and socialists for more than two centuries.

 I would like to reflect on another issue here. As it regards Islamic courts, we are dealing with a movement, which has gained political power in some influential countries and has become well known internationally: political Islam. In my opinion, it is a reactionary and misogynist movement. I am talking to you here as a first hand victim of political Islam. I can show you here among the audience many more victims of this brutal movement. There are many women and men here today who have fled the torture, threats of execution and the humiliation of political Islam. For us to see the seeds of an Islamic Republic being sown here in Canada is terrifying.

 Let me briefly take you back to September 11, 2001 - the horrific day that thousands were killed in the most horrendous manner. It was not only the number of human beings who lost their lives that shook the world but also the manner in which it happened. As a result of this tragedy, political Islam was marginalised and came under increasing pressure. The crimes of this brutal movement in Afghanistan and Iran were exposed. People in the world became appalled by the atrocities committed by political Islam.

 However, the actions taken by the USA and Britain , the attack on Iraq and the USA ’s bullying created a ground on which this movement began to build a psychological and propaganda campaign to present itself as the victim of western racism. It began to create a feeling of guilt among decent freedom-loving people in the west. The crimes and atrocities inflicted by the USA in Iraq and against immigrants and people from Middle Eastern origin became a source that political Islam came to cash in on to appear as ‘victim’. After that date, political Islam took our belief in freedom and equality hostage to serve its own interests. Our decency became a source for their exploitation. The term Islamophobia came into being. And once more after having pushed back cultural relativism to the margins, we came to fight a new monster. We were threatened by them and frowned upon by well-intentioned people for criticising Islam and its treatment of women, for criticising the veil, especially child veiling. The political Islamic movement that flogged us, tortured us for not observing the veil, and made us flee our homes and seek refuge here, now calls us racist. We should not let this happen. This mockery must be stopped. We should put and end to this charade of victimization and self-righteousness by a movement that has terrorised millions of women into submission and subjugation.

 It is true that we are the first hand victims of political Islam, but we are not mere victims. We belong to a vibrant, dynamic, strong, and progressive movement, which has fought political Islam not only in Iran , not only in Iraq , and not only in the Middle East but also here in the west. We have raised the banner of freedom and equality not only for women but for humanity and are fighting to push back religion to its rightful place - that is to the private sphere. We are fighting to diminish the role of religion in the running of society, to separate religion from education and the state, and judiciary. We have raised the banner of secularism. We are the front runner of the secular movement in Europe , and now in Canada . Women’s rights, equality and freedom need the secularisation of the society. We have organised this fight; we are at the forefront of this struggle and we are proud of it. We will not allow political Islam to take root in the west and we will soon uproot it in the Middle East as well.

 Islamic [In]Justice

On the Establishment of an Islamic Court in Canada

Maryam Namazie

 The ‘Islamic Institute of Civil Justice’ or what has become known as the Sharia Court has been heralded by proponents as a multi-cultural way of determining personal and family disputes for those who ‘choose’ to abide by Sharia law in Ontario , Canada . We are told it will promote ‘minority rights’ and that it is equitable, tolerant, and fair. We are told that if it is not established, the ‘Muslim minority’ will be marginalised and discriminated against. That anything less is racism pure and simple.

 This is not the case.

 Deceptively sugar-coating an Islamic Court in civil rights terms cannot and will not conceal the stark realities of Sharia law and its regressive implications for human beings and Canadian society.

 To begin with, Sharia law is inherently unjust and unfair even if it’s only being implemented in the area of what some call mundane civil disputes. In fact, discriminatory family and personal status codes are important pillars in the oppression of women in Islamist societies. Much of the struggle for women’s rights has taken shape in countries like Iran vis-à-vis these very aspects of Sharia law. Discrimination and gender-based persecution in areas of marriage, divorce, child custody and so on are in fact reasons why many women flee Islamist societies and seek refuge in Canada and the west. These so called ‘mundane’ disputes have cost many a woman and girl her rights and life in the Middle East and North Africa . Now, it aims to do the same in Canada .

 Yes we know. Those who avail of the court will ‘choose’ to do so; it will be completely voluntary. It is interesting how pro-women’s choices the political Islamic movement becomes when it is vying for power in the west. Where are the choices for women in Iran and Afghanistan under Sharia law and Islamic states? Where is it for women of Iraq or Saudi Arabia ? The political Islamic movement is renowned for threatening, intimidating, mutilating, maiming and killing all those who refuse and transgress. Women and girls are always its first victims.

 The very sham concept of its voluntary nature becomes clearer when you hear Mumtaz Ali who spearheaded the initiative say: ‘Once the parties have agreed …they will be committed to it by their prior consent. As a consequence, on religious grounds, a Muslim who would choose to opt out at this stage, for reasons of convenience would be guilty of a far greater crime than a mere breach of contract--and this could be tantamount to blasphemy-apostasy.’ The penalty of which by the way is execution under Islamic law in places like Iran . Clearly, then, even a limited Sharia Court in Canada will increase intimidation and threats against innumerable women. It will open the way for further conquests by this reactionary movement.

 Now some say that the Islamic Court will promote ‘minority rights’ and ensure the fair and equitable treatment of ‘minorities’. In fact, it is just the opposite.

 It is discriminatory and unfair to have different and separate systems, standards and norms for ‘different’ people. The concept of an Islamic Court adheres to a principle of separate but equal similar to that promoted by the former Apartheid regime of South Africa . It was clear then as it is clear now that separate is not equal. In fact it is a prescription for inequality and discrimination. It is the Canadian state’s justification for shrugging its shoulders and excusing itself from its responsibility towards all citizens living in Canada . It maintains fragmented ‘minority communities’ leaving members of the so-called community, particularly women and children, at the mercy of reactionary and parasitical elders and imams. It increases marginalisation and the further ghettoisation of immigrant communities. It makes immigrants and new arrivals forever minorities and never Canadian citizens equal before and under the law.

 And that is exactly the problem with the racist concepts of multi-culturalism and cultural relativism. It promotes tolerance and respect for so-called minority opinions and beliefs, rather than and often times instead of respect for human beings. Human beings are worthy of the highest respect but not all opinions and beliefs are worthy of respect and tolerance. There are some who believe in fascism, white supremacy, the inferiority of women. Must those beliefs be respected? There is a big difference between the two.

 Multi-culturalism always gives precedence to cultural and religious norms, however reactionary, over the human being and her rights.  And it always sees communities as having one homogeneous belief and opinion – often times taking the most reactionary segment of that community – the imams and elders’ beliefs - as the belief and culture of the whole.

 Multi-culturalism’s promotion of respect for beliefs and opinions is so strong that even when rights are violated, women mutilated and killed, girls victimised, respect for those beliefs and norms take precedence over individual and universal rights. There is a real contradiction between cultural relativism and multi-culturalism on the one hand and individual rights on the other.

 The Canadian state is duty-bound to defend the rights of all human beings living in Canada equally often times despite differing opinions and beliefs. Even if it is the individual’s belief. Just as it intervenes when a woman refuses to press charges against an abusive spouse. Just as it intervenes when parents abuse their children. Everyday, the state intervenes to protect people. Not necessarily because it likes to but because civil society and established norms force it to. It must do so here as well.

 And there are some who say opposing the Sharia Court and Islamic laws is racist.

  It is not.

 Opposition to or critiques of or even 'phobias' of ideologies, religions, cultures, laws or political movements are not racism. Islamophobia is not racism. Only phobias against people because of their race are racism. It is only under the New World Order's multi-culturalism that Islamophobia has been increasingly and deceptively given legitimacy as a form of racism. The political Islamic movement labels it such only to silence those who critique it or stand up to it.

 In fact it is racist to create a Sharia Court .  It is racist to discriminate against so-called minorities and deny them universal and equal rights and standards and the secularism fought for and established by progressive movements over centuries. It is racist to justify and ignore violations of civil rights and misogyny under the pretext of multi-culturalism. It is racist to deny equality of all citizens before the law. It is racist to create separate legal, social, cultural, religious systems for people deemed different.

 Enough is enough! The Sharia Court in Canada is an extension of that movement that stones women on streets and hangs apostates from cranes on city squares in Iran . It is an extension of the same movement that has threatened to kill Yanar Mohammad of the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq for defending women’s rights there. It is an extension of the same movement that imprisons women in burqas in Afghanistan . It has no right to speak of civil rights and justice. It is itself a pillar of injustice and rightlessness in the world today. A Sharia Court in Canada ? No way! No How! We will not allow it. Enough is enough!

 Islamism & Multi-culturalism

A United Camp against Universal Human Rights in Canada

Azam Kamguian

 In my speech, I will argue against the Islamic tribunals and will discuss how the Islamic Sharia law brutally violates human and women’s rights. I will try to demonstrate how Islamism and multi - culturalism are a united camp against universal human rights in Canada . At the end, I will emphasise the urgency of stopping the Islamic tribunals in Canada .

 As we all know, Islamists in Canada have recently set up an Islamic Institute of Civil Justice to oversee tribunals that would arbitrate family disputes and other civil matters between people from Muslim origin on the basis of the Islamic Sharia law. This is the first time in any western country that the medieval precepts of the Sharia have been given any validity. One can imagine that the Islamists will use this as a lever to work for similar recognition in many other western countries. After all, if Canada is prepared to recognise Sharia law in this way why not every other country in the west.

 This move is yet another effort by Islamists to impose the barbaric Sharia law, but this time on the people in the west. This move belongs to political Islam, a major force that has brutally suppressed people’s rights and freedom in general and women’s rights in particular in the Middle East . It is a political movement that came to the fore against the secular and progressive movements for liberation and egalitarianism in the Middle East . In Iran , the Sudan , Pakistan and Afghanistan , Islamic regimes proceeded to transform women's homes into prison houses, where confinement of women, their exclusion from many fields of work and education, and their brutal treatment became the law of the land.

 Sadly and unfortunately, the setting up of the Sharia tribunals in Canada will be given validity, due to the reactionary politics of multi-culturalism. This is yet another fruit of a policy that causes fragmentation; apartheid based legal system and racism. Of course, this politics of fragmentation and apartheid suits the purpose of Islamists best. Mr. Mohamed El Masry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, has argued that Canada needs "a multiplicity of laws" to accommodate different groups when their moral standards clash. Mr. El Masry says the tribunals, which would include imams, elders and lawyers, will provide Muslims with the means to settle civil disputes out of court according to their beliefs.

 Advocates for the Islamic tribunals have argued that one of the beauties of free and open societies in the west is their flexibility. But the very same ‘flexibility” provides the Islamists with the opportunity to impose their own rigid and oppressive rules on a specific community in the society.  Mr. Momtaz Ali, president of the Canadian Society of Muslims, and a leading proponent of the Islamic tribunals has said: "It - the Islamic tribunal - offers not only a variety of choices, but shows the real spirit of our multicultural society," The very same Mr. Ali also says: “…On religious grounds, a Muslim who would choose to opt out … would be guilty of a far greater crime than a mere breach of contract – and this would be tantamount to blasphemy or apostasy”. You are aware that blasphemy and apostasy are among the worst crimes in Islam, in many countries punishable by death.

 This project is against the equality of all citizens before the law, regardless of race, religion or gender. Such equality does not exist under the Islamic Sharia law. Sharia tribunals effectively establish a parallel legal system based on religion, which I believe will lead to an apartheid-based legal system. The principles of individual freedom and equality before the law should take precedence over any collective goals that members of a particular group might claim for themselves.

 Many people from Muslim origin will be pressured into accepting arbitration by the Islamic Institute on matters of civil and family law. This presents a serious problem for the rights of particularly women living in Canada . The decisions of the tribunal will be final and binding and will be upheld by the Canadian courts. The Institute will be applying Islamic Sharia law which is totally against impartiality of the legal systems. For example, a woman's testimony under the Sharia counts only as half that of a man. So in straight disagreements between husband and wife, the husband's testimony will normally prevail. In questions of inheritance, whilst under Canadian law sons and daughters would be treated equally, under the Sharia daughters receive only half the portion of sons. If the Institute were to have jurisdiction in custody cases, the man will automatically be awarded custody once the children have reached an age of between seven and nine years. Given this inequality it is particularly worrying that there will be no right of appeal to the Canadian courts. The principle being that if both parties in a dispute willingly submit to Islamic arbitration, they can't complain when they lose.  

The problem here is the word "willing". Too many women from Muslin origin living in the west still live in Islamic and patriarchal environments where the man's word and pressure from the community is law. It will take a brave woman to defy her husband, and to refuse to have her dispute settled under Islamic law when her refusal could be equated with hostility to the religion and apostasy. To this is added the problem that going to a Canadian court will take longer and cost more. There is no reason however why arbitration service under Canadian law could not be used instead. The danger is that once these tribunals are set up people from Muslim origin will be pressured to use them, thereby being deprived of many of the rights that people in the west have fought for centuries.

 In virtually every western country with a sizeable Muslim minority there is pressure from Islamists for a separate civil and criminal law. They seek to establish their own state to oppress people, legally and officially. There must be no state within a state. Yet this is precisely the objective that the Islamic advocates are pursuing. They argue that it is their duty as good Muslims to work for precisely this end. And this end precisely leads to more forced marriages, more honour killings, more Islamic schools, more FGM-s done secretly, and more harassment and intimidation towards women and girls in ghettos.  

In Islam, as Mr. Momtaz Ali has said, there is no separation between religion and the law. But in the contemporary civilisation, laws are seen as the work of man and as such can be changed in the light of changing circumstances. In Islam, the law is against universal women and human rights, but is God’s law, and change is impossible.  

Islamic Sharia law should be opposed by everyone who believes in universal human rights, women's civil rights and individual freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and belief and freedom from religion. Islamic law developed in the first few centuries of Islam and incorporated Middle Eastern pre - Islamic misogynist and tribal customs and traditions. We may ask how a law whose elements were first laid down over 1000 years ago can be relevant in the 21st century. The Sharia only reflects the social and economic conditions of the time of Abbasid and has grown out of touch with all the human's social, economic, cultural and moral developments. The principles of the Sharia are inimical to human's moral progress and civilised values.  

 Islamic law forcefully opposes free thought, freedom of expression and freedom of action. Accusations of impurity, of apostasy are waiting to silence any voice of dissent. Suppression and injustice shapes the lives of all free minded people. One is borne and labelled Muslim, and one is forced to stay Muslim to the end of their life. Islamic law denies the rights of women and non- - Muslim religious minorities. Non -believers are shown no tolerance: death or conversion. Jews and Christians are treated as second - class citizens.  

 Under the Sharia, for over two decades, millions around the world have fallen victim: countless people have been executed, beheaded, stoned to death, had their limbs cut off, flogged and maimed, bombed to pieces and routed. In countries which have proclaimed an Islamic state, such as Iran , the Sudan , Pakistan , some states in Northern Nigeria , and Afghanistan , we have already seen the pernicious effects of the Sharia.

 Human rights and the Sharia are definitely and irremediably irreconcilable and antagonistic. Universal human rights are essential to ensure a certain standard of living for people across the globe. It is not acceptable to let governments and authorities away with many of the abuses by using multi - culturalism as an excuse. We cannot let multi-culturalism becomes the last refuge of repression. To accept religion as a justification for human rights abuses is to discriminate against the abused and to send the message that they are un-deserving of human rights protection.  

 Multi-culturalism is a cover to create a comprehensive social, legal, intellectual, emotional, and civil apartheid based on distinctions of race, ethnicity, religion and gender. This complete system of apartheid attacks women’s basic rights and freedom and justifies misogynist rule inflicted on women by Islamists. Any attempt to restrict human and women rights in the name of religion and culture, or defining freedom and equality according to different cultures and religions is racist.

 Our contemporary society is far larger, diverse and complex than the small primitive tribal society in Arabia , 1400 years ago, from which Islam emerged. It is time to abandon the idea that anyone should live under the Sharia. More than ever before, people need a secular state as well as a secular society that respects freedom from and of religion, and human rights founded on the principle that power belongs to the people and not to God. It is crucial to oppose the Islamic Sharia law and to subordinate Islam to secularism and secular states.      

I call upon all secularist forces and freedom-lovers to stand up and protest against the setting up of Islamic tribunals in Canada . All progressive people should make a joint effort to stop Islamism and multi – cultural politics of the Canadian authorities from violating the universal human rights and our civilised values.

 Campaigning against the Sharia Court in Canada

Homa Arjomand

 The reasons given for a Sharia Court in Canada by Islamists and their multi-culturalist supporters are not what they seem. They say Muslims do not want their family problems to be made public; these tribunals will deal with civil disputes not criminal matters; one can choose not to go before the Sharia tribunal; and that it will take less time than a Canadian court and cost less. 

 Let me address each one separately. Why do the initiators of the proposal not want family disputes to be publicised outside of their ‘communities’. In communities where Sharia law interferes with people’s lives, family problems are not simply disagreements between a man and a woman and who gets what.  In fact, private matters and religion are closely linked together. To make my point clear, I would like to present one case study I have come across in my social work. I have a client in Toronto who was taken out of school by her parents at the age of 15 and forced to marry a 29 year old man; according to Sharia, she is married whilst under the Canadian legal system she is not. At the age of 16, this young pregnant girl is going through separation because of domestic abuse. In a secular court, the fact that she was forced to marry at a young age is considered a crime and her husband will be charged for assault and child abuse. As for her parents, they too will be charged. The Children’s Aid Society will get involved and if they have any other children younger than 16, all will be moved out to the Aid Society’s care. While in the eyes of the Sharia tribunal no crime has taken place and the matter is a civil one, which can be resolved by the Islamic tribunal, under the modern secular system of Canada , the child will be immediately protected and the abusers prosecuted.

 Moreover, proponents say that the Sharia tribunal is optional for those who decide to use it. My question is optional for whom? Muslim women lose their options right at birth. But for the sake of argument, let’s go back to our case study. Let us say that the 15 year old girl refused to accept the forced marriage, and made a complaint against her parents to a secular court. I don’t know if that would have happened in reality due to social and financial restrictions. What do you think would have happened to her? I know it is hard to imagine. Her family would disown her for sure. For a moment, imagine being born and brought up in such a family and the so-called Muslim community, being made to study in an Islamic school and never having the chance to integrate within society; and then being disowned by not only your family but also the entire community. No wonder she chose marriage over isolation. I think it is fair to say that she had no choice, even though she could have filed a complaint. As I mentioned before, her choice was taken away right at birth. In her case, after going through tremendous abuse (verbal, mental, financial and sexual) for eight long months and being five months pregnant, she could not take it anymore.  What are her choices now before the tribunal? Because she married according to the Sharia, in the eyes of her community and family, her divorce has to be in accordance with the Sharia too or else it will not be legitimate!  

Proponents go on to say that the tribunal costs less and takes less time. During a recession, these two excuses may be acceptable for the government and its right-wing parties. They may think that whatever reduces costs of social services, health care, education and social justice is to their advantage but what would the consequences of these low costs be?  And who will pay the price? How much damage will it do to humanity? It is not their problem. The above two ‘solutions’ are exactly the same as letting an unskilled layperson do heart surgery on patients in order to reduce the cost of paying a skilled heart surgeon; the percentage of survivors in this case is obvious. Or discharging a sick patient right after her critical operation in order to bring down the costs of the hospital or to be able to shorten the process of recovery!! If this is not inhuman, then what is it?

 My point is why should Muslim women pay a heavy price to bring down costs?  If the cost of courts are high and the process is long because of its bureaucracy, then it is everyone’s duty to fight it and make sure that the justice system is fair and affordable for everyone, while remaining secular and modern.  

 And finally, we often hear people saying, this is not your problem; why do you care? This is what Muslim women want. Modern society is not built of different clans and tribes that can make their own laws and practice it without affecting others. A modern, secular society has its own norms and standards. We have gained them by going through harsh struggles over many years. The rights to live, education, health, to socialise and have a social life, and all other rights such as the rights of gays and lesbians and children, etc. make up the society’s standards and norms. The disturbance of any will affect others. For example, it is not acceptable to physically discipline children. In fact it is considered abuse and has legal consequences. When some Amish people claimed that it was their right to physically punish their children and had nothing to do with others as they were doing it out of love for their children, society opposed it. And we had every right to do so. It is exactly the same in the instance of the ‘right’ to have the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice. It must be opposed nationally and internationally as it will diminish our social norms and standards.  In the real world, not every ‘right’ is or should be respected, such as the right to commit suicide, drink and drive, institutionalise male domination, gender apartheid and segregation between man and women and so on. Whether all Muslim women want it (as they falsely claim), 1,000,000 people demand it or just one does not affect the argument.

 We still have many long hard challenges ahead for the separation of the state and administration from religion, ethnicity, nationalism, racism and any ideology that contradicts the absolute equality of all in civil rights and before the law. Fighting the Sharia tribunals is one important step in defending universal rights for all those living here in Canada .

 The above speeches were made on March 8, 2004 , International Women’s Day at a panel debate organised by the International Campaign against the Sharia Court in Canada to debate the planned establishment of a Sharia Court in Ontario , Canada . The successful panel was organised by Homa Arjomand, the Campaign’s Coordinator. To join or find out more about the campaign to stop the Sharia court in Canada , contact Homa Arjomand at homawpi@rogers.com, visit the website: http://freehost14.websamba.com/noshariacourt and sign the petition online: www.petitiononline.com/pasc1361/petition-sign.html.

 A Political Challenge on a Global Scale

Islamic Courts in Canada

Mohsen Ebrahimi

 The struggle to establish Islamic tribunals in Canada , like similar efforts to enforce the hijab in public institutions and schools in France , is not merely a cultural effort to pursue cultural rights. Both the aims of and the forces behind these efforts are political. These attempts are part and parcel of one of the most reactionary global phenomena in recent history, i.e. the movement of political Islam.

 Islamist circles in Paris , London and Toronto are the extensions of the Islamic Republic in Iran , the Taliban and Mojahedin in Afghanistan , the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq , and plenty of other Islamic groups in Pakistan , Saudi Arabia , Chechnya and other parts of the world. This monster has plenty of heads and tails. The Islamic Republic of Iran at its head has savagely ruled for 25 years and is now being challenged by a huge secular movement of the people of Iran . Ironically, while the head is being smashed in its stronghold by a secular movement, the tails are challenging the secular values in the west. The head is being attacked in Iran by a secular movement; the tails are attacking secularism in Paris , London and Toronto .

 What is going on here? How is this possible? It may look a bit complicated but some answers are rooted in the horror of September 11 and its political aftermath.

 Immediately after the massacre of more than 3000 people by Islamic terrorists on September 11, the USA and the Islamic movement, formerly old friends, became new foes. A bloody duel began between two long-time friends, the state terrorism of the USA and Islamic terrorism. The state terrorism of the USA needed a fresh ‘great Satan’ to replace the recently collapsed Soviet Union which served as a long-lasting ‘Satan’ during the cold war. With the horror of September 11, Islamic terrorism became the most fitting alternative to play this role.

 But, the strategists of the New World Order were wise enough not to put all their eggs in one basket. They consciously divided political Islam into Islamic fundamentalists, Islamic terrorists, and moderate Islam. They smashed Islamic terrorism while cosy-ing up to ‘moderate’ Islam. Islamic terrorism was used to justify US militarism and ‘moderate’ Islam was still kept as a potential force against the Left movement in other parts of the world. No wonder George Bush, Jack Straw, and Schroeder began to compete with the grand Ayatollahs of Islam in the interpretation of the Koran and Islamic teachings.

 In the eyes of western states, and in fact with the help of them, the Islamic movement can now operate in a new, moderate and modern disguise: moderate Islam! And they did. Plenty of clerics in the west suddenly became the vigilant advocates of moderate Islam! They are not terrorists; they are ‘moderate’ fighters against secular values in the west. They are not terrorists; they are ‘moderate’ advocates for the institutionalisation of the hijab – the symbol of women’s inferiority in Islamic culture and Islamic politics – in France ! They are not terrorists; they are ‘moderate’ advocates of establishing Islamic courts in Canada ! They are ‘moderate’ forces of religious values against secular values.

 In the aftermath of September 11, racist groups intensified racism against citizens categorised as Muslims. They failed because the people in the west rightly did not want to be labelled as the supporters of this organised racist reaction. They rightly defended the rights of every citizen, regardless of religion, race, colour, gender and nationality. While this attitude attracted the respect of ordinary people, Islamic groups were ready to hypocritically take advantage of this progressive atmosphere. They used it to promote their politico-religious causes. They began to present themselves as ‘oppressed’ representatives of an oppressed ‘minority’. People in the west were for the rights of citizens to live in a secure environment; Islamic groups used it to promote Islamic values to undermine the rights of the same citizens.

 While in their stronghold in the Middle East , the Islamic movement is being challenged by secular movements, in the west, the Islamic movement is attempting to erode long established secular values. It is struggling to win in the west, what it is already losing in Islam-stricken countries.

 Both the strong movement against the Islamic Republic in Iran and the strong turnout in France in favour of banning the hijab in public places and schools are indicative of the strength of the secular movement against political Islam.

 The atrocities of political Islam are global. The stoning to death in Iran and Afghanistan, the struggle to enforce the hijab in public places in France, the attempt to set up Islamic courts in Canada are all various parts of one and the same phenomena: political Islam. The threat is global. The fight against it must therefore be waged on a global scale. We must stand up, defend our secular values, and defeat them.

 The above is a part of a longer article written in English under the same title.