Canadian Province Allows Islamic Law to Solve Civil Disputes

The Canadian province of Ontario has approved the use of Islamic law, otherwise known as sharia law, to resolve civil legal disputes, angering Muslim women’s rights activists. According to the Toronto Star, Ontario’s Arbitration Act of 1991 has previously allowed religious groups such as the Hassidic Jews and Catholics to resolve civil disputes.

Ontario’s Attorney General’s office has stated that there are “safeguards built into the act” and the “participation must be voluntary by both parties,” reports the Toronto Star. However, several prominent Canadian women’s rights activists, such as Homa Hoodfar, are worried that female immigrants could be forced into participating in the Islamic tribunals where women are not equal under the law. According to Hoodfar, the use of Islamic law to solve family disputes “won’t affect [her] life or educated women who know their rightsÉIt will affect the rights of women who are new and need protection,” reports the Washington Post.

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Toronto Star 5/22/04; Washington Post 4/28/04; The New Zealand Herald 5/25/04

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