Thursday, September 08, 2005

Equality and Justice under the Law for EVERYONE.

I must admit I am concerned about the prospect of allowing Islamic Law greater influence over family disputes here in Canada. Canadian laws protect families and ensure the rights of children and those of both parents are intact through the process of mediation, custody and divorce.

The Shari'ah does not. Its gender based custody and divorce laws leave the woman with frighteningly little or no rights at all, depending on its interpretation.

Divorcing, as it is understood in the Shari’ah, occurs when the husband says to his wife "I divorce you" three times, although some Muslim scholars argue once is enough. The wife only has this right if it was specifically written into the marriage contract. This act is thought to effectively and irrevocably sever the marriage, however, if a divorce is considered revocable for whatever reason the husband may resume marital relations with his wife without her consent. If the divorce is legally final the woman is not allowed to be with another man for a period of time long enough to ascertain if she is pregnant. The husband is permitted to detain his former wife until this period of time ends (or until the baby is born, if she is pregnant).

Under Shari'ah, a father is the natural guardian of his children and their property, and if a father cannot accept this responsibility custody is awarded to the closest male relative of the father. The Shari'ah allows a mother to maintain custody of her children until they reach the age of custodial transfer (usually between 7-9 years) ONLY IF she meets all the requirements of a female guardian. In some cases a mother's visitation after this time is allowed only with written permission from the father.

In addition to the above matters, what about other family related issues found within the Shari'ah, like Female Circumcision, pre-arranged child marriages, temporary marriages, polygamy, property rights, death penalties (or stoning of women) for marital offences? How will these varied traditions fit with the expectations of our modern society and our laws? I am skeptical at this time that the inclusion of even some elements of the Shari’ah can successfully be good for women living in Canada.

The Noble Qur'an and Hadith provide the basis of tradition and direction found within the Shari'ah and it is defined by many schools of thought throughout Islam in differing ways. But it is not a modern law (I am sure some would argue this is the point) and it can not be made inclusive, equitable or gender neutral by it’s interpretation. Therefore it is not appropriate to inflict upon Canadian citizens, Muslim or not. We need to protect the rights of Canadians, not allow our system to bring them harm through discrimination, gender based persecution or obsolete religious laws.

Premier Dalton McGuinty says the "the rights of women will not be compromised" if Ontario becomes the first western jurisdiction to allow the Shari’ah in settling civil and marital disputes.

My question, if he honestly believes this, is simply "How?"

1 comment:

QP said...

Totally agree with you Allie. One of many reasons that my views on McGuinty are uncomlimentary and generally unprintable! :-)