The Muslims Who Saved Us From Ourselves

In 2005, the most populous province in Canada, Ontario, completely oblivious to the implications, came within a hair’s breadth of allowing Islamic tribunals to operate in the province.

During the campaign to stop Ontario from establishing Sharia tribunals in Canada's most populous province, the Quebec National Assembly passed a resolution sponsored by a Muslim MNA (Member of National Assembly) Fatima Houda-Pepin, that rejected the introduction of Sharia law into the legal system of the province of Québec and reasserted that all citizens of the province were equal before the law and asks the Canadian Parliament to do the same.

Canada' self-proclaimed national newspaper The Globe and Mail, in an editorial called the action of the Québec National Assembly “un-Canadian.”

Michael Ignatieff wrote in The Lesser Evil that people are more inclined to obey the law if they feel that it accords them “equal respect and equal consideration.”

What the introduction of Sharia tribunal will do is diminish respect for the rule of law by making the rule of law selective in its application. How can that be a good thing?

What happens when the amount of justice and consideration a person can expect from the judiciary becomes a function of his or her religious beliefs?

How is it a good thing to establish a parallel legal system that will compel a significant number of the province's female citizens to seek morally binding decisions from a medieval-like court system where male clerics sit as judge, jury and executioner?

Many Muslims were alarmed at the prospect of the medieval Sharia Law, which many had come to Canada to escape, was about to invade their sanctuary. With the Muslim Canadian Congress spearheading their efforts they set about educating McGuinty, politicians, the media and non-Muslim Canadians about the implications of such a move, especially when it came to women’s rights, forcing the McGuinty government to back away from its ill-considered initiative.

Muslims for whom the CMC speaks “believe in the separation of religion and state in all matters of public policy. [That] such a separation is a necessary pre-requisite to building democratic societies, where religious, ethnic, and racial minorities are accepted as equal citizens enjoying full dignity and human rights enunciated in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” (from the CMC's mission statement)

Muslims for whom the CMC speaks want to be part of the Canadian mainstream, and liked the Western tradition where everyone is equal before the law.

Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to the Canadian Muslim Congress (CMC), a debt of gratitude which may never be repaid.

Bernard Payeur