The Wrong Arm of the Law

A fiery debate is brewing over an Islamic conflict based very close to home: the influence that sharia, or Islamic Religious Law, should have on civil law. Canada and India are both facing growing demands from their large Muslim populations to establish sharia courts that would exercise jurisdiction based on Islamic texts such as the Quran rather than their respective constitutions. Past abuses have shown that sharia must not be allowed to take the place of civil arbitration. The issue of sharia law replacing national civil law was given overwhelming international attention in 2003 when a Nigerian sharia court sentenced a young woman, who had given birth out of wedlock, to death by stoning. Nigeria uses sharia law in place of standard civil law, commonly implementing stoning as punishment for crimes involving adultery and sodomy. There have been repeated instances of raped women who, after being impregnated, were sentenced to death on charges of infidelity and adultery. In depraved nations where corruption and political inequalities abound, there must be some sort of accountability for cruel and unusual punishments passed down by the courts. A sharia based judiciary provides none. Sharia law in countries like Nigeria and Pakistan also make it hard for non-Muslims to get a fair trial. Religious minorities such as Christians, Hindus, and Shiite Muslims face discrimination within sharia courts that are supposed to try all people equally. Basic civil liberties, such as freedom of speech and the right to petition, are also circumscribed by the enforcement of a law that does not allow for dissent. Any statement made criticizing the prophet Muhammad or Islam in general is seen as blasphemy. After Salman Rushdie wrote a series of books condemning the negative aspects of Islam, multiple Islamic clerics issued fatwas, or religious edicts, demanding the assassination of Rushdie in the name of Allah. Allowing sharia law to be recognized in the democratic nations of the world, would leave governments open to accusations of favoring one religion over another. This is especially problematic in countries like Canada and India, where all citizens are guaranteed the same rights, regardless of their religion. India, with its significant Muslim minority, has always faced issues regarding Hindu-Muslim relations. The advance of the radical Hindutva doctrines, calling for a fundamentalist Hindu state in India, have caused widespread concern among people who believe that Muslims in India would be discriminated against in a Hindu state. That is a valid concern, but so would be the concern that the establishment of sharia courts would do nothing more than to discriminate against non-Muslims. the establishment of sharia courts that wo Imagine if the evangelical movement in the United States were to all suddenly call for the establishment of religious courts that recognized only religious Christian texts. Every sane person in the United States would immediately be up in arms over this attempt to advance one religion at the expense of another. What is so different about Sharia Courts that make them necessary? Canada, India, and nations all over the world have a choice to make here, and we can only hope that they decide against the spread of sharia law.