Skip to comments.First steps taken for Islamic arbitration board (Canada)
Posted on 11/25/2003 1:37:22 PM PST by veronica
Delegates at an October conference elected a council to set up the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice (Canada). In a neighbourhood dotted with Halal food shops and Islamic fashion stores, a recent convention of Muslim community leaders was told that they have "no choice" but to set up their own arbitration board.
The International Muslim Organization Hall in Etobicoke, Ont., was the venue for the gathering on Oct. 21. By the end of the day, the delegates had elected a 30-member council which will work towards establishing a Darul-Qada (a judicial tribunal), to be known as the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice (Canada).
The convention is the latest step in a long struggle to have Islamic law recognized in Canada. Shariah is a complex and sophisticated body of law based on religious principles. Muslims must resolve all their commercial and personal disputes according to its tenets.
This has been extremely difficult when there have only been individuals and ad hoc committees providing legal advice and limited mediation and arbitration services. Most dispute resolution has been conducted by Imams, who are learned men connected with local mosques.
Legal scholars, known as ulama, are thin on the ground in North America. Their knowledge is essential in adjudicating complex issues.
One of the key obstacles to establishing an Islamic legal institution identified by a number of speakers was a lack of unity and organizational strength. While the Muslim community is the largest minority in Canada, over one million strong, it is made up of groups from many different countries and different schools of Islam. Each group has organized its own activities and there has been no common cause.
Organizer B. Husain Bhayat was heartened by the turnout. The two main groups - Sunni and Shi'ite - were both represented and there were many Imams and leaders of organizations.
"It seems as if the community was looking forward to something like this," says Bhayat. "If all groups are represented, with hard work and the unity we saw here, we will have no difficulty going forward."
The president of the convention was barrister Syed Mumtaz Ali, who struck the first blow in the campaign for recognition of Islamic law in 1962. He was the first lawyer to swear his oath of allegiance on the Koran.
Syed explained the law of minorities as it is set down by the Shariah. Muslims in non-Muslim countries are required to follow the Shariah to the extent that it is practical.
"The law applies as if to Bedouin wanderers," he said. "We are required by our own law to follow the laws of the country and to follow our own laws. We have a double obligation. You don't have to be the wisest man to see there will be conflicts. . . ."
Syed explained that until recent changes in the law, Canadian Muslims have been excused from applying Shariah in their legal disputes.
Arbitration was not deemed to be practical because there was no way to enforce the decisions. Syed said the laws have recently changed with amendments to the Arbitration Act.
"Now, once an arbitrator decides cases, it is final and binding. The parties can go to the local secular Canadian court asking that it be enforced. The court has no discretion in the matter.
"So, the concession given by Shariah is no longer available to us because the impracticality has been removed. In settling civil disputes, there is no choice indeed but to have an arbitration board."
His message was supported by a speech in Urdu by Maulana Syed Wasi Mazhar Nadvi, a former Pakistani federal minister and long-time mayor of Hyderabad. He spoke of the effectiveness of arbitration in cost and time compared to the great mental agony and spiritual distress caused families if matters drag on or are heavily publicized through court proceedings.
"We have failed to take advantage of this opportunity because we have not been aware of the law, or are too busy earning our livings and getting settled," he said
Maulana Nadvi expressed hopes that the institute will become a non-denominational umbrella for many other ventures including a shelter for oppressed men and women, an orphanage, mental clinics, libraries, and resource centres.
"All these dreams will be fulfilled if we co-operate and the community is awakened to this," he said. "The institute should be influential in bringing Muslims on to one platform - to rise above fickle differences - above cultural, ethnic, and denominational divisions."
The committee is hopeful that the system will be accepted by the Muslim community at large, and in particular, Muslim women. There was only one woman present at the convention. Bibi Zainob Baksh attended in her capacity as president of the Ladies' Muslim Organization. She pointed out that there has been a mediation service in the past but it folded when it failed to attract Muslim women. She is of the opinion that if the present initiative comes to fruition, women will participate "later" in the process.
At present, the new committee will focus on the organization of an arbitration board.
The bylaws should be drafted and approved by Dec. 31.
Does this mean what I think it means? That civil Canadian courts will be bound by decisions of a Muslim Shariah council?
It's just binding arbitration. We have the same thing here. When two contending parties agree to accept an arbitrator, they enter into a contract that they will accept as final and binding whatever the arbitrator decides.
If both parties agree in advance to the arbitrator, and the criteria the arbitrator will use, the arbitrator can make his decision according to Sharia Law, Talmudic Law, private organizational rules, or by reading the entrails of a goat.
The key is that both parties must agree in advance to accept the arbitrator's authority, otherwise the manner gets handled in regular civil court. Normally, this is a free decision. In an Islamic community, however, refusal to accept a Sharia arbitrator would be an offense against Islamic authority. Bad things would happen to you.
Whoever controls the Sharia arbitration council would control all business in the Muslim community. Expect the battles for control to be "spirited"
Are Canon Law and Halacha (Jewish Law) enforced by secular courts in Canada?
Probably because Muslim culture regards women as either cows (the more you have, the better off you are) or eggs (always better when repeatedly beaten).
Has everyone forgotten that the religion of Islam does not believe that women have souls?
We already have a hint of future trouble in the mention in this article of the reticence of women to participate.
I see this being long-term trouble as you do, and for the same reasons: coercion in "agreeing" to be bound by Sharia law (with failure to "agree" meaning that you are branded an apostate by your local Imam, with the penalty for apostasy (leaving the religion) from Islam being death).
I can also see problems if the "Muslim community" becomes large enough, with Muslim businessmen telling all their non-Muslim suppliers/customers/employees that THEY must also agree to be bound by Sharia as a precondition to being able to do business with Muslims
Halacha covers pretty much everything. As for Jewish religious courts in the USA, these are used to settle business disputes out of (secular) court, marriage and divorce questions from a religious point of view, and religious matters generally. Although Halacha also deals with criminal law, this is always left to the secular courts.
The Jews have a long long long history of adapting to other countries without demanding that that country accomodate their religion (and taking over).
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