Montreal

Quebec gives thumbs down to Shariah law

Members of the National Assembly have given unanimous support across party lines to a motion blocking the use of Islamic courts in Quebec.

Members of the National Assembly have given unanimous support across party lines to a motion blocking the use of Islamic courts in Quebec.

Shariah
  • The word Shariah means "the path to a watering hole." It denotes an Islamic way of life, not just a system of criminal justice.
  • It is a code of living that most Muslims adopt as part of their faith.
  • Some countries formally institute it as the law of the land, enforced by the courts.
  • However, the way Shariah law is applied from country to country can vary widely.
  • According to Muslim scholars, the Prophet Muhammad laid down the laws.
  • Some of the laws are said to be direct commands stated in the Qur'an.
  • Other laws were based on rulings Muhammad is said to have given to cases that occurred during his lifetime.
  • These secondary laws are based on what's called the Sunnah — the Prophet's words, example and way of life.
  • Some Muslim groups have been pushing for the right to use Shariah law to mediate family disputes.

    Liberal MNA Fatima Houda-Pépin says the pro-Shariah lobby has a hidden agenda, and implementing the parallel justice system would infringe on Muslim women's rights.

    "Shariah law is not only a question of family mediation. It is a whole judicial system," Houda-Pépin said Thursday.

    "It includes civil, criminal, penal, and international laws. So, we don't want that in Canada. We want to be integrated like all other Canadians."

    Houda-Pépin says she is concerned Ontario legislators may decide to allow Sharia courts to operate in that province.

    Some Muslim groups say they want the right to apply Shariah, the legal code of Islam which is based on the Qur'an, to settle family disputes.

    Several Quebec cabinet ministers condemn the practice of Sharia law, saying it discriminates against women.

    Many Muslims believe that because Canada is a secular country, its secular legal system makes it difficult for them to govern themselves by the personal laws of their own religion. For instance, Canada's marriage and divorce laws differ from Muslim law.

    It can be important for a Muslim to be granted a divorce under Muslim law, especially if he or she intends to move to a Muslim country in the future and remarry.

    One of the major concerns of people critical of Shariah law is that it is subject to interpretation and evolution. There is virtually no formal certification process to designate someone as being qualified to interpret Islamic law.