Were Muslim Barbarians Really Knocking on the Gates of Ontario?: The Religious Arbitration Controversy - Another Perspective
Ottawa Law Review, 40th Anniversary, pp. 67-82, Summer 2005
21 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2008
The religious arbitration controversy created a moral panic that Muslim barbarians were knocking on the gates of Ontario. Historically, feminists have rightly criticized patriarchal approaches to religious practice that have limited/excluded women's participation in matters of everyday and/or religious life. In the recent sharia debate, feminist organizations were critical in exposing several deficiencies in the Arbitration Act that had an unduly burdensome impact on women. Relying on their analysis, feminists successfully lobbied to proscribe religious arbitration as the only acceptable means of protecting vulnerable women. It was resolved that the interests of women, Muslim women in particular, were best protected through the strict separation of law and religion. However, this strategy of secularism as the obvious solution to gender inequality was problematic for a number of reasons. First, it showed no consideration for religious women who might want to live a faith-based life. Second, feminist endorsement of an exclusively state run apparatus failed to understand legitimate resistance to government policies post 9/11 that have perpetuated punitive and stigmatizing measures against people of colour. Finally, the supposed ban on religious arbitration failed to prohibit religious arbitration at all; it merely perpetuated the Orientalist dichotomy between the enlightened West and backward Islam.
Keywords: women's equality, relgious freedom, arbitration, sharia
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