Religious Arbitration in Canada
September 5, 2005
Bahá'ís have their own laws / rules, just as many other religions. These laws are not binding in the government sense in any situation I am aware of; truth be told, I'm not entirely sure if that is a meaningful statement anyway. Will it ever come about that "Bahá'í arbitration" and/or legal application of "Bahá'í laws" will be granted by government bodies?
The question is prompted by a new push (and protests in response thereto) to allow Islamic Arbitration in the province of Ontario. This arbitration would not attempt to enforce the whole of Sharia law, but appears to be a compromise between Sharia and Western law. Protests center on a few points, primarily the tendency of this practice to increase insularity / isolation of the Muslim community, and the perception that this would weaken women's rights. And many are scared that if the Muslims win this fight in Ontario, they'll win it elsewhere (particularly in Europe)
What a tough question to deal with! There appear to be many "mainstream" Muslims who are against this. But what does that word "mainstream" mean anyway? I've always thought the word "mainstream" sounded like a sham for "they agree with the position we're taking." The idea of allowing one's religious laws and practices to take priority over civil ones is appealing to me (provided it does not interfere with anyone else's rights), and certainly to a vast number of practicing Muslims in non-Muslim societies. On the other hand, there is certainly potential for abuse, and the abuse would tend to be to the detriment of women.
I won't pretend to know how to resolve this issue; nevertheless, I tend to think that anything that weakens women's rights should be set aside at this time, unless and until we've established a position where women can put forward their ideas and opinions on the issue as effectively as men.