Ontario Premier rejects use of Shariah law
Premier Dalton McGuinty said today Ontario will reject the use of Shariah law and will move to prohibit all religious-based tribunals to settle family disputes such as divorce.
His announcement comes after hundreds of demonstrators around the world this week protested a proposal to let Ontario residents use Islamic law for settling family disputes.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was reacting to a recommendation, by former NDP attorney general Marion Boyd, to allow Muslims to establish Shariah-based tribunals similar to Jewish and Catholic arbitration bodies
"We will not tolerate the interference of religion in our justice system," said Homa Arjomand, who organized a protest in Toronto that drew hundreds of people Thursday.
The protests were generally peaceful, but on the outskirts of the Toronto demonstration, pro-Shariah activist Mubin Shaikh and his wife, Joanne Sijka, verbally sparred with protesters. Shaikh said the misuse of Shariah doesn't mean it should be excluded from Canadian civil law. "Abuse of the process is not a proof against a process, just as people wrongfully imprisoned is not a proof against Canadian law," Shaikh said.
In Montreal around 100 people gathered Thursday to protest the tribunals. In Ottawa more than 100 others, mostly women, protested in the rain in front of the parliament building.
And in the western German city of Dusseldorf, about 25 people protested at the Canadian consulate.
"If the Shariah is used in Canada, I also feel threatened here," said protester Nasrin Ramzanali, who said there should be a clear separation of church and state.
Other protests were planned this week in Waterloo and Victoria, and in Europe in Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Stockholm, Goteborg, London and Paris.
Ontario has allowed Catholic and Jewish faith-based tribunals to settle family law matters on a voluntary basis since 1991, but the practice got little attention until Muslim leaders demanded the same rights.
According to the latest census in 2001, some 600,000 Muslims live in Canada, just over 100,000 of them in Quebec.