Sharia gains a foothold in Canada in advance of the Bryant report, despite the best efforts of Muslim women. Bravo, Homa Arjomand. “Islamic law course hears opening arguments,” from the Globe and Mail:
Islamic law is coming to the University of Toronto.
Not in the form of sharia tribunals for cheaters or strict dress codes for female students, but in the form of two professors hired to teach the subject at the university’s law school.
While students are excited about the opportunity to learn about another legal tradition, especially one that’s often in the headlines, groups fighting to keep sharia out of Canada’s legal system worry that the hirings are a setback to their efforts.
Bringing in Anver Emon, 34, and Mohammad Fadel, 38, to teach courses in Islamic law is part of a push for a more global focus that students are embracing, says acting law school dean Lorne Sossin. Having two full-time professors will give the law school a bigger concentration on Islamic law than anywhere else in Canada.
“The early indications are that students are going to be beating down the doors, and it’s a testament to the timeliness of it, with Islamic fundamentalism in the news abroad and of course the sharia debate in Ontario just this last year bringing these issues close to home,” Mr. Sossin says.
Too close to home for Homa Arjomand, who heads the International Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada, and Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.
Ms. Arjomand has been campaigning to keep Islamic law out of the Canadian system because in other parts of the world, such as Afghanistan or Nigeria, women have suffered under strict and violent interpretations of Islamic law. The hirings are “like a green light for sharia,” Ms. Arjomand says. “I’m so mad.”
Ms. Hogben says she’s “concerned about the motivation.” Canada’s law system should be totally secular so the university shouldn’t be seen doing anything to prepare for the possibility that sharia law may make inroads, she says.
The issue of sharia law hit the headlines in Ontario in 2003, after a Muslim lawyer founded the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice to settle family-law and inheritance-law disputes. The move was perfectly legal under Ontario’s Arbitration Act, which allows people to voluntarily settle arguments outside the court system using an arbitrator of their choice. The outcomes are binding.
Amid an outcry that raised the spectre of Muslim women in Ontario living under the same restrictions as those under the Taliban, where adultery allegations could lead to summary executions, the Ontario government did what governments do. It commissioned a report.
Marion Boyd, a former Ontario cabinet minister who works as a mediator, spent six months researching the issue before recommending that religious law keep a place in family arbitration as long as safeguards are built in to protect women and children. Ontario’s Attorney-General, Michael Bryant, plans to respond in the fall.