Promoting the Everyday: Pro-Sharia Advocacy and Public Relations in Ontario, Canada’s “Sharia Debate”
3. Islamophobia and Ignorance
4. Dispersed Authority
Sharia is Arabic for Islamic Law and there is no need for Canadian Muslims to be apologetic. Those who oppose the use of the word Sharia, but say the tribunals will use ‘Islamic principles’ are contradicting themselves [. . .] We should not let those abusers rob us of a word that has a long and noble history.
when decision [sic] in favour of women are made against men who are ignorant of the rights of women afforded in Islam. The authority of the Tribunal will prevent a disputant from accusing it of ignoring their Islamic values—a claim frequently made against the secular system. Through this authority, the community will pressure the wrongdoer to conform to the norm and encourage him/her to cease their sinful behaviour.(, p. 64)
5. Orthodoxy and Public Relations
ICNA does not elaborate, however, as to more specific sources of authority and how fiqh would be determined. Their campaign is primarily focused on de-stigmatizing Islamic law.There is no one thing called Shariah. A variety of Muslim communities exist, and each understands Shariah in its own way. No official document, such as the Ten Commandments, encapsulates Shariah.
We tell them [members], ‘be part of the broader mainstream community. Get involved. Be part of the civic engagement. Learn Islam from the right sources, rather than being radicalized through these internet videos’.
Like all Canadians, we want to feel safe and protected in our own country. We trust that our fellow citizens will see this for what it is: the alleged criminal and misguided actions of a few who do not reflect or represent Canadian Muslim communities.
Conflicts of Interest
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- 1These kinds of debates and controversies receive a great deal of attention by journalists and academics. Yet, these requests are rare. Statham et al. (, p. 438) show in their analysis of group demands in the Netherlands, Britain and France from 1992–1998 that Muslim group requests for accommodation accounted for fewer than 3.5% of all such appeals to the government. They are, in short, extremely minor.
- 2In 2003 French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy created the Conseil Français du Culte Musulman (CFCM or French Council of the Muslim Faith). Sarkozy envisioned a representative body for French Muslims who could be called upon when input was needed. Christians and Jews had similar representation in place. The government’s involvement with the CFCM has drawn criticisms about state interference. These remarks were sharpest with the appointment of Dalil Boubakeur by Sarkozy as the first council president and with complaints that the organization does not adequately represent the diverse makeup of French Muslims (see , pp. 71–84; , pp. 24–25; , pp. 85–87). Seats on the CFCM are apportioned according to the physical square footage of individual mosques, a system that benefits groups with greater financial resources.
- 3According to the Canadian Muslim Profile Survey conducted in 2008 by the Canadian Institute of Policy Studies, 37% of respondents went to the mosque more than twice a week, and 31% once a week. Some (15%) of respondents attended the mosque only for special programs, and 2% of respondents never went to a mosque .
- 4Julie Macfarlane’s recent qualitative research with Muslims on Islamic divorce in Southern Ontario and in three American cities (Dearborn, Los Angeles, and Omaha) concludes that “the number of Muslim North Americans who marry using a nikah is far higher than those who regularly attend prayers or even consider themselves to be observant.” Ninety-eight percent of the marriages in her study were contracted using a nikah (, p. 11; ).
- 5This paper refers to both sharia, as Islamic law stipulated in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and fiqh, as jurisprudence or the more practical application of these sometimes abstract notions.
- 6The Muslim population in Canada in 2001 was 36.7% South Asian, 21.1% Arab, 14.0% West Asian, and 14.2% were part of other minority groups (not including the small percentage of Chinese, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Korean, and Japanese Muslims; ). PEW’s 2010 estimations suggest there were just under 1 million Muslims in Canada or 2.8% of the entire population  The most recent reliable data predict that by 2017, the Canadian Muslim population will be approximately 1.6 times the 2001 population of 579,645 (see [28,29]) and that by 2030 the population will be approximately 2.7 million, or 6.6% of the Canadian population .
- 7The Canadian Council of Imams (CCI) was established in 1990 and is constituted by more than 40 members. The CCI meets monthly to discuss relevant elements that affect Muslims in Canada (see [32,33]). Their website notes that it “has become the principle [sic] liaison with Federal, Ontario Provincial and Toronto Municipal Governments.”
- 8There are typically three forms of marriage dissolution outlined in mainstream Sunni jurisprudence: talaq, khul and faskh. In the first case, traditional Islamic juristic traditions accord unilateral extra-judicial divorce rights solely to men, grant women limited alimony ranging from three months to one year, and typically favour men in child custody and inheritance rights. Talaq divorce—or unilateral divorce by the husband—is the most common form of divorce among Canadian Muslims (see , pp. 33–34; , pp. 20–23).
- 10Ali was called to the Ontario Bar in 1962 and was the first lawyer to take his legal oath on the Qur’an rather than on the Bible . Syed Mumtaz Ali passed away in 2009.
- 11Here Ali uses polemical language like that critiqued by Mahmood Mamdani .
- 12Homa Arjomand of the International Campaign against Sharia Court in Canada calls herself an “atheist Muslim” . Alia Hogben of the CCMW claims to be a practicing Muslim.
- 13Internationally, these groups received support from the Progressive Muslim Union of North America and the grand mufti of Marseilles, Soheib Bencheikh. Nationally, these groups’ critiques of FBA were bolstered by prominent politicians like Quebec MPP Fatima Houda-Pepin and the Ontario Women’s Liberal Caucus .
- 14The Ottawa-based non-for-profit Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada (CAIR-CAN) was founded in 2002 and has been active in a number of lobbying campaigns, including those surrounding the Maher Arar and Omar Khadr cases (, p. 203).
- 15The CIC is based in Saskatoon, SK and was formally incorporated in 1998. It has been in the active in the media on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, a Human Rights complaint against Maclean's, and the Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, among others .
- 16Formally since 1982 and informally prior to that, the Masjid El Noor has offered counselling, mediation and arbitration services carried out from a pastoral care point of view. Their mediation board consists of seven people, one of whom is an imam and the rest of whom are volunteers divided equally between men and women. The mosque provides translations in Gujurati and Urdu to those who need services in other languages (, p. 60).
- 17The “Toronto 18” refers to eleven men and four youths arrested on 2 June 2006 (two others were arrested who were already serving prison terms, another was arrested two months later), accused of participating in plots to attack Parliament Hill among other locations. That these were the first arrests after the 9/11-related anti-terrorist legislation and that these threats to Canada were “homegrown” raised the spectre of radicalization.
- 18Statistics Canada data 2001 show that despite a higher level of education than non-Muslims, Canadian Muslims’ level of unemployment (14,4%) is more than twice as high as the national average . A 2004 CAIR-CAN study suggested that 43% of their 467 respondents knew at least one other Muslim who had, since 2001, been questioned by the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) or local police. More than half (56%) had experienced at least one anti-Muslim incident since 9/11 .
© 2013 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).
Selby, J.A. Promoting the Everyday: Pro-Sharia Advocacy and Public Relations in Ontario, Canada’s “Sharia Debate” . Religions 2013, 4, 423-442. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel4030423
Selby JA. Promoting the Everyday: Pro-Sharia Advocacy and Public Relations in Ontario, Canada’s “Sharia Debate” . Religions. 2013; 4(3):423-442. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel4030423Chicago/Turabian Style
Selby, Jennifer A. 2013. "Promoting the Everyday: Pro-Sharia Advocacy and Public Relations in Ontario, Canada’s “Sharia Debate” " Religions 4, no. 3: 423-442. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel4030423