More bad news for Muslims who dream of making their new Canadian homeland a little more like the backward, repressive nations they once fled. The other week Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced a ban on Islamic or Sharia law in the province. McGuinty's pronouncement means the end of government sanction for the province's rabbinical and Christian tribunals too, and has the justices of Ontario's Rastafarian Supreme Court sitting around smoking ganja and saying, "Ah, mon, what a drag, mon."
McGuinty told the Associated Press that religious arbitrations "threaten the common ground" on which stands Canada's most populous province. "There will be no Sharia law in Ontario," he said. "There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario. There will be one law for all Ontarians." Religious courts may continue to operate in private, though without government backing.
The Ontario government's return to sanity came after weeks of dogged protests by Canadian women's groups that have uncharacteristically decided that giving in to each and every hare-brained multiculturalist demand may not be such an enlightened idea after all. Even Muslim Canadian Congress founder Tarek Fatah called the proposal "multiculturalism run amok."
Using faith-based tribunals to mediate family law disputes for Jews and Christians had been lawful since the Ontario government passed the 1991 Arbitration Act. The Act, it was said, would be cheaper than building more courthouses and paying new judges. Then last year, under pressure from Muslim leaders, former Attorney General Marion Boyd concluded that Muslims should have the same rights to faith-based arbitration as their Jewish and Christian brethren.
Ms. Boyd's recommendation was welcomed by radical Muslim leaders who have long sought to impose Sharia law in Ontario as part of their ongoing efforts to isolate and further control Canada's Muslims. Supporters of the ban now argue that when the Arbitration Act was first passed Ontarian legislators had no idea what a primitive, misogynistic code of law Sharia really was. This is not unusual, they say. They seldom know anything about the laws they pass. It took 9-11 and the London bombings to open their eyes.
Ontario's Muslims have vowed to appeal the decision, and doubtless will not put their feet up until Muslim women are firmly put back in their place with help from the Holy Koran and the provincial government. This is all part of a larger political trend whereby Islamofascists seek to impose their cultural values on Western society. Back in Old Europe, Muslims have demanded Italy's greatest literary masterpiece The Divine Comedy be removed from classroom syllabus -- they find the depictions of Mohammed in hell offensive. Some have even demanded that medieval masterpieces like Michelangelo's The Last Judgment -- again with its depiction of Mohammed roasting in hellfire -- be obliterated.
In 2003, Muslims in Aubervilliers, France, demanded the city council close the municipal swimming pool to men at certain hours so that Muslim women could swim in private. The city agreed to curtain the pool's large bay windows. (Apparently suggesting that Muslims build their own facility if they did not like the rules was not an option.) Recently junior high students in Saint-Denis refused to tour the famous basilica where many of France's kings are buried because the church grounds were considered "impure." And more and more often Euro-Muslims are insisting on separate men's and women's wards, which will ultimately mean separate public hospitals for Muslim patients.
Not surprisingly, in the undeveloped world the fight is not over books and curtains, so much as life and liberty. In Nigeria, once predominantly Christian provinces are now forcibly made to accept Sharia law in place of the secular constitution. And in Indonesia, Islamic thugs have sought to impose Sharia on the majority Muslim population, threatening Indonesia's status as a secular state.
Several European governments have already adopted some of the most heinous aspects of Islamic law, even if they refuse to acknowledge it as such. The brilliant and outspoken Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci now lives in exile in the U.S. after publishing a book critical of Islam and falling afoul of Italy's religious hate-crime laws. And British Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised to introduce similar legislation in Britain. Passage of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill would be a huge step back to medieval blasphemy laws. Even in the U.S., Muslim leaders, like the chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America Muzammil Siddiqi, have called for a wider application of Sharia law.
What's the worst that can happen? For starters, under Islamic "family" law, after a couple divorces, the father automatically gets custody of the sons when they turn eight, and the daughters when they begin to menstruate. Imams can refuse to grant a woman a divorce unless her husband consents. Nor can she remarry without her ex-husband's approval. Sharia also prohibits Muslims from marrying or remaining married to non-Muslims. Women who wish to have their case mediated by an imam must negotiate through male relatives. At best Muslim women inherit half that of a male relative. And God help a woman if she is accused of adultery. Sharia authorizes the stoning of women for that offense. To make things more interesting, a women's testimony is worth half that of a man, though she may easily testify twice as long. If a woman accuses a Muslim man of rape, Sharia requires she have four male witnesses -- four male witnesses who just happened to observe the rape, but did nothing to prevent it -- therefore, the likelihood is that the rape victim will be found guilty of adultery or fornication and stoned to death. Canada doesn't have the death penalty -- not even for Muslims -- so this presents a bit of a problem. How to do away with the godless slut? Doubtless such legal quandaries would have taxed the brains of a Holmes or Brandeis.
Attorney General Boyd promised to appoint watchdogs to ensure that Muslim women's rights were not violated by Islamic law. As an additional safeguard any ruling by an imam could be appealed to the state court. It is almost as though the consulting firm of Rube Goldberg P.C. had been hired to streamline the overcrowded court system.
Outside the area of family law, Sharia gets even more absurd and barbaric. Islamic law authorizes amputations of hands and feet for petty theft, and the death sentence for apostates. Husbands are permitted to thrash disobedient wives, and women are forbidden to hold prominent jobs. Need it be said that badmouthing the prophet is punishable by death? Who will enforce the laws? In the Middle East at least the enforcers are not a metropolitan police force, but mutawa, or religious police, i.e. thugs. Such punishments were introduced thousands of years ago when nomadic Arab tribes could not afford prisons or prevent accused criminals from being killed by outraged victims and kinfolk. Times have changed, but the ideology hasn't.
Today Saudi Arabia and Iran maintain Islamic courts for all aspects of jurisprudence. Sharia is also used in Sudan, Libya, and until recently, in Afghanistan. Some states in northern Nigeria have reintroduced Sharia courts. And Ontario nearly joined this illustrious chorus.
A lot of us had our doubts about the Canucks. They've been known to do some fairly silly things. Same-sex marriage and the Canadian Football League come to mind. As does their lousy national healthcare plan. And who can forget how Ontario welcomed all those lousy hippie Vietnam war protesters, and worse, allowed them to come back? But this time, at least, cooler heads and common sense prevailed. Who knows if this isn't the beginning of a trend...
Christopher Orlet is a frequent contributor and runs the Existential Journalist blog.