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reports of September 8th demonstration against Sharia court in Canada


RALLY ON SEPT. 8, 2004,


By Nasreen Shah


We are gathered here to demonstrate against Shari’a Court in Ontario .  We want to protect women’s rights, secularism and human dignity.

The Ontario Arbitration Act (1991) was originally meant to ease the backlog in the courts and cut costs by resolving disputes through arbitration/mediation.  At the time, I did not hear any mention of the introduction of Shari’a Law in Ontario .  Religion and the court of law are two separate entities and should remain that way.  Shari’a Law is practised in various forms in various muslim countries – so who decides which form is to be followed in Ontario ?

We are all aware of the abuse and discrimination suffered by women in countries where there is Shari’a Law.  Afghanistan , Iran , Pakistan , Saudi Arabia , Iraq .  Why are muslim women in Ontario being deprived of the rights women in Canada have fought for and enjoy?  Why are muslim women being pushed backwards instead of forward?

The common complaint of many muslim men in Ontario has been that they no longer have control over their wives/daughters like they did “back home” and the divorce rate has increased in their community.  What this translates into is that they can no longer be abusive and domineering towards their wives/daughters in Canada .  

The government’s contention is that muslim women have a choice of settling disputes either through the courts or through Shari’a arbitration.  Where is the choice when a woman is told that she is not submitting to the will of God unless she follows the guidelines, counsel and principles related to muslims through the Quran and Prophet Muhammad if she does not submit to Shari’a arbitration?  No one wants

 to be ostracized by their religious leaders and community, so naturally a practising muslim woman will have to choose Shari’a over the courts.

we are told that in Ontario Shari’a arbitration will deal with wills, inheritance, marriage, remarriage, marriage contracts, divorce, maintenance, custody and maintenance of children, guardianship.  It is in these very areas of law where the muslim woman’s rights are abused and where she needs most protection under a court of law.  For example, a woman in Islam inherits a fraction of the estate of her husband/father, etc. whilst her son inherits more than she does.  She loses custody of the children at a certain age.  In some countries if she wants a divorce, she is entitled to no financial support even though she has valid reasons for wanting the divorce. 

To ensure male domination over a woman, not only do the muslim men want Shari’a Law in Ontario , but they want the courts to file/register their arbitrary decision so that it has legal status. 

When westerners go to eastern countries they are expected to follow the law of the land.  Why is it when we come to this country we should expect our own laws and regulations?  We came to this country to leave all that abuse behind us and to enjoy the freedom and rights of Canada .  Why now should we be excluded from this privilege?

I hope every one of you attending this rally will speak to your MPs and government officials showing your unacceptance of Shari’a Court in Ontario or any other province for that matter.  We as Canadians want the protection of the law of Canada and none other.


Report from Ottawa
In the warm September sunshine, we stood on the steps below the majestic buildings of the Houses of Parliament.  We had come to join in a demonstration against a Sharia Court in Canada.  There was some press coverage and interviews were given.

It was significant that while Canada allowed us to protest and demonstrate freely, our brothers and sisters in countries where the Sharia is the rule of law are not afforded the same liberties.
There were 5 speakers:
Soheila Bayani from the Campaign against Sharia Court in Canada;
Sheila Ayala from the Humanist Association of Canada
        (reading the speech for Homa Arjmand, organizer of the campaign)
Maryam Abdula from the Campaign for the Defense of Women's Rights in Iraq
David Aram from the International Federation Refugees of Iran
Elizabeth Caddy, women's rights activist.
Each speaker in turn stressed the danger of allowing Sharia arbitration tribunals: the Sharia law is inherently unjust and unfair; it is discriminatory; women and girls will be coerced and intimidated; Canada will have separate laws for one segment of the population, undermining the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that states Canadian citizens are equal before and under the law; it will lead to the ghettolization of Muslim immigrants and finally, Canada must remain secular, leaving individuals free to follow their own conscience, religious or otherwise.
At the end of the demonstration a resolution was read by Soheila Bayani by calling on the government to stop the Sharia from being implemented in Canada.

There are 2 pages to this story.

Yesterday at our protest from 8am to 8pm in Penticton, through out the day we spoke to about 100 to 150 people.
2 women could not believe -when they found out what Sharia was--that Canada would bring this in.  They were from the USA.
Some other tourists from Germany- one was a Judge-- Said this would never happen in Germany and he was shocked and astounded that Canada would bring it in.
Toward the evening a woman who works with battered women said she read that Sharia was to come into BC on Sept 17.  She couldn't remember where she read the article so I have been contacting politicians to find out.  I was furious because Mr.Barisoff's office had said before , "This wont happen in BC.  We would not bring it in."  So I went to MP DAY's office and made some calls.
Rick Thorpe, an MLA in the Okanagan just called me to state emphatically that, "NO! BC is NOT bringing  Sharia into the BC Legal System.
In the article the  Attorney General says that Sharia will not come in-- They have no plans for it.
Alas, some Muslim men are still pushing.
If what I found out today is true, a store-front can be set up---as a business-- and if the 2 people agree to the Arbitration they could possibly use Sharia there.  And if this happens the government might not be able to stop it.
Mr. Ali said on TV about the abusive administration of Sharia,  " It is the fault of the Muslim people, it is not fault of the Law."
As I understand what I was told today--- The Law allows arbitration, the people decide what they are going to do.   Kind of sounds the same.
I am trying to get, in writing, a statement from the Attorney General, a positive NO.
I'm glad there was a fairly good turn out in Vancouver---about 40 people it said in the paper.
We had about 100 to 150 people stopped by to get information and most signed the petitions, some wanted to get more information first.  I haven't counted the names collected yet.
I  have been asked to speak at a meeting in November and possibly to a women's group earlier.
Jane Turnell



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Last updated: 09/12/04.