Posts Tagged ‘ Canadian Muslims ’

Study: US Muslims Don’t Want Shariah, Either

By Omar Sacirbey for The Houston Chronicle

North American Muslims are more than satisfied with the secular legal system and do not want a set of parallel courts for Islamic law, according to a new study of U.S. and Canadian Muslims by a Washington-based think tank.

The study, by University of Windsor law professor Judy Macfarlane for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, refutes critics’ claims that American Muslims want to impose Shariah, or Islamic law.

In fact, the study indicates that Muslims are just as unwilling to accept Islamic law as non-Muslims.

Macfarlane interviewed 212 Muslim Americans, including 41 imams and 70 community leaders who used aspects of Shariah in their daily lives. The other 101 interviewees were divorced Muslim men and women. About a quarter of the interviewees were from Canada, and the rest from the United States.

“Aside from formal religious observance, American Muslims relate to their Shariah responsibilities primarily through rituals of marriage and divorce,” Macfarlane wrote.

“They see these as compatible with the civil law – almost all the respondents in this study married and divorced twice, once in Islam and once in law – and will use the courts where they cannot agree outcomes, just like any other couple.”

When asked whether they thought American courts should apply Shariah to non-Muslims in the legal system, all of the respondents answered no. Just three of the 41 imams said they wanted parallel Shariah tribunals where Muslims could handle civil issues like marriage, divorce, and inheritance.

Macfarlane began her research after a Muslim group in Ontario petitioned the provincial government in 2003 to establish a separate Islamic family tribunal where Muslims could get binding legal decisions on family law issues. The Ontario government denied the request, and later that year abolished similar tribunals for Catholic and Jewish citizens that had been allowed in 1991.ˇ

The study follows a Jan. 10 decision by a federal appeals court that upheld a lower court’s ruling to overturn a 2010 Oklahoma constitutional amendment to prohibit judges from using Shariah in their deliberations.

Tennessee and Louisiana have passed similar laws, while 20 other states are considering such legislation.

Pakistani woman appointed to Canadian Senate

By Latafat Ali Siddiqui for Dawn

 Salma Ataullahjan on Friday became the first Canadian woman of Pakistani origin to get into the Senate when Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed her to fill a vacancy from the province of Ontario.

“I am pleased to announce the appointment of Salma Ataullahjan to the Senate of Canada,” said Prime Minister Harper in a statement on Friday evening.

“A professional, artist, parent and strong activist for the South Asian community in the Greater Toronto Area, Ms Ataullahjan brings a remarkable dedication and energy to her new role as a senator for the province of Ontario,” he said.

The appointment comes into effect immediately. “I’m delighted to hear the good news of my appointment as a senator,” said Ms Ataullahjan, who immigrated to Canada from Pakistan 31 years ago, becoming a Canadian citizen in 1989.

She pledged to support the government in its efforts to make the Senate more democratic and accountable, including bringing in legislation to limit the Senate’s tenure and to allow provinces to elect senators.

Ms Ataullahjan, who belongs to the family of the late Khan Abdul Wali Khan, has settled in Toronto and is associated with the real estate sector for 21 years.

She has served several organizations, including as founder and chairperson of the Parent Council of David Lewis Public School, as member of the South Asian Regional Council and on the executive of the Pakistani Canadian Professionals and Academics.

She has also worked for the Toronto chapter of the Citizens Foundation, a charity that builds not-for-profit schools in poor districts of Pakistan. Ms Ataullahjan is an accomplished artist and paints in watercolours. She and husband Saleem have been married for 31 years and have two daughters.

Aqsa Parvez: A Canadian Tragedy Lost in ‘Culture Talk’

By Uzma Shakir for Rabble Blogs

Aqsa Parvez is a “Canadian” tragedy — not an immigrant tragedy, or a Pakistani tragedy, or indeed a Muslim tragedy. In her formative years, Aqsa was raised in Canada; oppressed by her pathologically patriarchal father in Canada; failed by the family, the friends of the family, the education system, the student counseling services, the social service sector — in Canada. To make her tragedy a case of “these immigrant types with their medieval cultures” is to insult her memory and even worse learn nothing from it so that we can prevent it from happening again in the future — in Canada.

Like Aqsa and her father I was born and raised in Pakistan. Like Aqsa I grew up in a devout Muslim household. Unlike Aqsa’s father I came here as an immigrant while he came as a refugee. Like Aqsa and her father I was also raised with the notion of “honour.” In my upbringing there was honour in respecting your elders, there was honour in treating the women in the family with respect, there was honour in making sure that every child in the family had good education, there was honour in allowing your children (men or women) to make choices with regards to where they wanted to go for education or who they wanted to marry. My father and mother made decisions in the family by mutual dialogue and consent. As the only female child in the family and the youngest, my parents spent more money on my education than that of my brothers. And yes I had an arranged marriage — I arranged it myself, thank you. In fact, what was considered dishonourable in my family was to use physical force against women and children (my father used to say to my brothers “never raise your hand”), for adults to lie or cheat, to hurt someone and than justify it, and a particularly heinous act was to take a life — since, according to my dad, only God had that power. In fact, everyone I know in Pakistan or in Canada who is of Pakistani origin have similar values and family trajectories. Of course, my reality is very much conditioned by my family class background, my urban location, my family’s personal history, my parents’ education levels, and the socio-political context in which we grew up. So the question arises: who is the norm here and who is the exception? Who gets to define “the” Pakistani culture?

Neither Aqsa’s father nor I represent “the” Pakistani culture. We both experience it differently given our different locations of class, place, gender, education, family history etc. Mohammad Parvez may have suffered the same so-called culture shock in Lahore or Karachi as he is supposed to do in Toronto and Canada. Both Aqsa’s father and I immigrated to Canada but even our personal histories here are almost polar opposites — just like they were in Pakistan. Once again this is conditioned by our class, place, education, gender but this time it is further compounded by level of accessibility to the mainstream society in terms of language, economic opportunity, social inclusion and ultimately level of perceived cultural threat.

While I am lauded and praised by the mainstream society in Canada because I am “familiar” (probably the inevitable intimacy of bourgeois affinity), Mohammed Parvez was left in his own alienated world as the undesirable “other” facing what must have appeared to him to be a hostile world. Often enough Canadian experience is not just one of sampling diversity of cultural values but rather of hostile mainstream values actively undermining your perceived values as a cultural inferior. In my case, I can deal with this cultural assault because I have a voice in the public sphere and also I feel in control of my life because I have access to adequate financial, social, political and familial capital, while his control only went so far as his immediate family — and he exercised it to its grave end. However, to consider him to be more “cultural” than me, simply because he seems to exemplify what appears to be a “gaping divide” between the so-called traditional values and Western values, is patently absurd. We were divided about our notions of culture long before we came here because there is no neat little box that contains Pakistani monolithic cultural values that either of us can claim to be “authentic.”

Had we met in Pakistan he would have found me too urban and not Pakistani enough and I would have written him off as a fossil of entrenched feudalism and not Pakistani enough. However, if we meet here, he will find me to be Canadian and himself to be a Pakistani — a distinction encouraged by the mainstream notions of “our” and “their” values. But actually we are both the same — Canadian and Pakistani at the same time. This process of ‘othering’, denial and identity distinctions have more to do with Canada and immigrant experience here than with what might be or not be Pakistani culture. Over the years our experience of culture has changed, as has the Canadian society. So to turn this into either a case of “in our culture girls must obey their fathers” as an assertion of a simplistic fact by the Pakistani Canadian community or “he can’t handle our freedoms” as portrayed by the mainstream media is the worst form of myopia and chauvinism.

 These factors are critically important to understand because neither Aqsa’s father nor I represent either Pakistani or indeed immigrant “culture” but rather are a reflection of how our individual histories and personal interactions with the Canadian society shape our actions and responses — including our understanding of “culture.” However, ultimately Aqsa’s tragedy is about her father as an individual with his own pathological and uncontrolled desire for power and his own twisted notions of justifying his pathology through trumped up notions of “honour” and “shame.” To my mind the real dishonour and shame is to treat women and children as your personal property and not as equal members of society. The real dishonour and shame is to live in patriarchal societies where men exercise disproportionate power over women both personally and structurally — be it Pakistan or Canada. The real dishonour and shame is to brush off our collective responsibility and our institutional failures and treat a Canadian child’s tragedy as “their” problem or even worse our problem for allowing them to come here in the first place.

— Uzma Shakir is a community-based researcher, advocate, activist. She is the past Executive Director of Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) and the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO). She has worked as a teacher, journalist and researcher. She blogs at www.rabble.ca

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