I would like to thank you for giving the
opportunity to be among you today. My speech will highlight the need for total
separation of religion from justice system. I will then talk about
the challenges that women’s movement for equality face and outcome of present
emphasized throughout my debates that the move for establishment of Shari’a court in
The Act unfortunately
formed another obstacle for women’s rights movement. It has been over a year to
be more precise since October 23, 2003, from the moment The Islamic Institute
of Civic Justice established and announced Sharia
court in Canada by use of the Arbitration Act 1991 we as defender of women’s
rights, as defender of secularism have been withstanding it in every aspect,
from running panels and public meeting in various cities, provinces to having
meetings with ministries in charge; from attending to various conferences and
speeches nationally and internationally to appealing to media and general
public; from running international demonstration to writing articles in various
paper nationally and internationally, finally in June 2004 the Ministers in
charge gave Mrs. Boyd a mandate to review the act. On
December 20, 2004. “ just four days before
Christmas Holidays”, “when the whole atmosphere in
We are told that religious arbitrators will promote “minority
rights” and to be more specific it will ensure minority’s religious rights. What is missing here are the rights of individuals within that group. What about the rights of my client “Nasrin” who was pulled out of school and forced to an arranged marriage?
To place “minority rights”
above individual rights would mean forcing my young client Nasrin
to get raped regularly for the rest of her life in what is a so called Islamic community
- defined marriage. It would mean that members of the greater society, who are
not part of that community, would be forced to accept this horrific act and be
totally powerless in opposing or preventing it. Such
horrific scenarios will occur when the government of
We are told faith-base court deals with civil and not criminal matters!! My question is where can we draw a limit on religious law and regulation? To subsume religious law into civil and criminal law is impractical. These types of classification are drawn by a secular court system not a religious. Under Sharia law there is no boundary between civil and criminal. For example, according to Sharia the least penalty a single unmarried woman can have for having sexual relations with a man is death by stoning. In the case of pregnancy outside of wedlock the punishment is 100 stashes first then death by stoning, right after the birth of her child. According to today’s enlightened view as seen from the perspective of modern secular society and according to criminal law in secular society, no crime has been committed by any of the above mentioned women!
In today’s civil society rape, child molestation, forced marriage
and child bride are all considered to be very serious crimes. According to Sharia law, however, girls as young as nine can be raped legally, under the guise (name) of “marriage” by any man- even a man as old as their grandfather. One can give thousands of examples that in Sharia, there is no border between civil and criminal law.
Allowing religious interference in the justice system promotes respect and tolerance for minority beliefs and practice rather than respect for the individual. The problem is that the defenders of religious arbitrators see communities as having one homogeneous belief. The inhume aspects of this notion is the violation of individual members particularly women and children in those communities. This is an obvious discrimination against a significant part of the society. It is a delineation of different categories of citizens which is equivalent to racism.
I need to emphasize the fact that there has been a long battle
for recognition of the citizen and the citizen’s rights for the past 100 years. The reduction of the Church’s power over society and achievement of the secular system and secular legislations, did not come to us without a harsh struggle.
We are told parallel court systems are permitted legally in
order to prevent the hidden practice of Religious law. There is
no need to say that it is the duty of the State to protect the rights of all its residents, independent of their country of origin, religion, race, and gender. The law and regulation of a secular system must be able to disallow the hidden practice of so-called religious leaders. The law must be enforced! All the once who deny women’s rights in areas of marriage, divorce and child custody must face consequences rather than recognition and validation.
The question is, should the government of
It has been emphasized that it is completely voluntary to
attend a religious court. What is being purposely ignored is
intimidation and social/ moral pressure to attend such a court. Women in so called Islamic communities are forced to not only accept inequality in all aspects of their lives but are also forced to respect all these degradations as the norm. Or else no women would voluntarily accept to have inequality in marriage, divorce, custody the list goes on and on.
Discrimination and gender –based persecution should not be
tolerated. All citizens should be equal before the law. Religion,
race, minority or majority should not serve as the basis for the definition of the civil rights of citizens.
There is no need to say we
still have many long hard challenges ahead for the total separation of religion
and state. Fighting Sharia tribunal is one important
step in defending universal rights for all who live in