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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 September 2005, 22:56 GMT 23:56 UK
Protests over Canada sharia move
By Lee Carter
BBC News, Toronto

Women protesting against Sharia law in Toronto
The prospect of Sharia law in Ontario has sparked protests
Protests have been held in cities across Canada aimed at stopping Ontario province from adopting sharia-based law to settle Muslim family disputes.

Ontario is considering a report which recommends that it allow sharia religious arbitration for issues such as divorce and child custody.

Opponents say the proposed arbitration process will violate women's rights.

Approval would make Ontario the only Western jurisdiction to adopt a form of sharia arbitration.

The demonstration outside the Ontario legislature was the focal point for several protests across Canada.

Sharia-based laws would be similar to faith-based tribunals already permitted by the Canadian province for Catholics and Jews to use the principles of their faiths to settle family disputes.

The government insists that the process would only have its roots in sharia and that the equal rights of women would continue to be protected under Canadian law.

Interpretation

But the proposal has alarmed women's' and human rights groups.

They say sharia law does not view women as equal to men.

Homa Ar-Jomand, campaign protest co-ordinator, believes that the system should be completely secular.

"We strongly believe that Islam has never been moderated," she said, adding that faith-based arbitration of family disputes is not relevant in the modern world.

But many Muslims believe that because Canada is a secular country, its legal system makes it difficult for them to govern themselves by the laws of their religion.

It can be important, for instance, for a Muslim to be granted a divorce under Islamic law if he or she intends to move to a Islamic country and re-marry.

One of the major challenges for the Ontario government is that sharia law is subject to a great deal of interpretation.

There are virtually no existing formal standards in appointing someone to interpret Islamic law.


SEE ALSO:
Sharia move in Canada draws anger
08 Sep 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Canada
16 Aug 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Canada
23 Aug 05 |  Country profiles


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