Muslim Council Of Montreal Condemns Quebec's decision to ban the use of Islamic tribunals

May 26, 2005
Action seen as disgraceful and tantamount to religious bigotry and discrimination against a Quebec minority
The Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM) strongly condemns the decision of the Government of Quebec to ban the use of Islamic tribunals in Quebec to settle Muslim family disputes.

Earlier today in a unanimous vote, the Quebec legislature passed a motion against allowing Sharia law to be used in the province's legal system.

"I outright condemn the signalling out of Islam and Muslims for exclusion," stated MCM President Salam Elmenyawi.

Elmenyawi said that today's action is "disgraceful and tantamount to religious bigotry and discrimination against a Quebec minority."

He also expressed amazement that Quebec politicians, who did not call for a public hearing or fair study of the issue, did not even give Muslims the benefit of a private hearing to explain themselves, are now trying to pass a message to other provinces and advice them against Sharia.

"I find it somewhat disturbing that the Islamic faith and Sharia - which are part of a Muslim's identity- are specifically mentioned and portrayed as being some kind of threat to Canadian society and values," he further stated.

Elmenyawi noted that the term "Sharia" is an expression relating to all the rules and regulations in Islam that govern the relationship of a person with his/her God and the relationship of a person and other person/s. In fact, many parts of Quebec Civil Code have been sourced from Sharia (Islamic Law), directly or indirectly.

He also stated that he would not object had the Quebec legislature passed a bill which would ban all faith based arbitration, "but to single out Islam and Sharia smacks of an Anti-Muslim agenda and is a slap in the face to Muslims living in Quebec and Canada."

In addition, Elmenyawi said it was very upsetting for him to see that Quebec's politicians have such a reductionist view of Sharia - limiting discussion of it to just a few areas - and do not even have a basic understanding of what Sharia is, what meaning it has for Muslims, and what goals it seeks to achieve to bring about social justice. Instead, a negative and bigoted definition of Sharia is adopted to serve a political agenda which does nothing more than exclude Muslims and make them feel like second class citizens in their own country.

He particularity objected to Fatima Houda-Pepin's characterization of Sharia "an archaic vision of Islam" and her stating that Sharia is an "attack the foundation of our democratic institutions."

"Again, Islam and Muslims are portrayed as being a threat to Canada by these irresponsible statements from Quebec politicians, and this is creating a climate of hatred and hostility against our community which our wives and daughters - people who these politicians say they are protecting- have to live with on a daily basis," he said.

"This is a sad day for Quebec politics, a sad day for religious women in Quebec who would benefit from this arbitration and sad for all Quebecers."