Opinion Editorial

Muslim Canadians must abide by Canada's laws: OUR OPINION

Canadians should be concerned about a recent survey that found 62% of Muslims living in this country want some form of Shariah law here.

And that 15% of Muslims say Shariah law should be mandatory.

The study was conducted by the MacDonald Laurier Institute and involved phone interviews with 455 Muslims in Ottawa, between May and July 2008, with a margin of error of five percentage points.

A small sample, done more than three years ago, but of concern nonetheless.

Shariah means an Islamic way of life, not just a system of criminal justice. It is a code of living that most Muslims adopt as part of their faith. Some countries formally institute it as the law of the land, enforced by the courts.

Because many Muslims believe Canada is a secular country, they feel our secular legal system makes it difficult for them to govern themselves by the personal rules of their own religion. Canada's marriage and divorce laws differ from Muslim law, for example.

But there is considerable opposition to Shariah law in Canada, as there should be.

The National Association of Women and the Law, the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and the National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada have all argued that under Shariah law, men and women are not treated equally.

These groups argue that women fare much worse in divorce, child custody and inheritance matters under Shariah law.

This flies in the face of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our Constitution, which guarantees that women and men are treated equally under Canadian law.

Two of Canada's largest provinces have already rejected Shariah law.

The Quebec National Assembly unanimously supported a motion to block the use of Shariah law in Quebec courts in May of 2005.

In September of the same year, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said there would be no Shariah law here.

McGuinty even said he wouldn't allow Ontario to become the first Western government to permit using Islamic dictates to settle family disputes, and that the boundaries between church and state would become clearer by banning religious arbitration completely.

"There will be no Shariah law in Ontario. There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario. There will be one law for all Ontarians," McGuinty told The Canadian Press.

Canada is a multi-cultural country, welcoming people from all nations. And Canadians bend over backwards, legally and practically, to accommodate immigrants.

But Canada has its own history; our governments and legal system are based on the British parliamentary system. Canada has its own Constitution, its own criminal and civil codes.

People coming here from other countries need to accept this, not try to change our laws.

Church and state, or religion and government (which makes the laws), have always been separate in Canada.

Our laws are made by governments elected by the people, not by religious leaders.

This country is based on Christian values, but these values are also shared by other religions, including Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.

Canada cannot have one set of laws which apply to one group of people and other laws which apply to everyone else.

There has always been one law for all Canadians and there should always be just the one. There cannot be separate laws for Muslims in Canada. Muslim Canadians must abide by Canada's laws.

It's that simple.

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