Aug. 13, 2005. 01:00 AM, Toronto Star
Activists speak out against sharia Trio of women under threat Dutch writer sees dire results ahead
PATRICK EVANS AND SIKANDER HASHMI STAFF REPORTERS Three women facing death threats appeared in public under heavy security last night to denounce a provincial move that would allow Muslims here to settle family disputes in accordance with religious laws, outside the court system.
The activists, including Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, say the religious laws known as sharia discriminate against women. "Why, if you have equal rights in Canada, would you take them away from Muslim women?" Hirsi Ali asked.
She was joined by Homa Arjomand and Irshad Manji in a University of Toronto auditorium for an event in support of the International Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada.
Hirsi Ali scripted a controversial film on women and Islam called Submission, whose director, Theo van Gogh, was killed on an Amsterdam street last November because of its critical view of how Muslim women are treated within their religion. The Dutch-born Muslim later convicted left a note pinned to van Gogh's body with a knife, threatening Hirsi Ali's life.
Arjomand, who fled Iran in 1989, heads the campaign to stop sharia in Ontario.
Toronto journalist Manji has also written and spoken critically about the treatment of Muslim women. All three women have received death threats.
Sharia, a broad set of laws derived from the Qur'an and sayings of Mohammed, is being considered in a limited way under Ontario's Arbitration Act, a law that allows religious groups such as Catholics and Orthodox Jews to mediate marital and family disputes as long as all participants agree and rulings don't contravene Canadian law.
But opponents say women will be treated unfairly if it's used. "All religions — Judaism, Christianity, Islam — in dealing with family law tend to discriminate against women," Hirsi Ali said. "Sharia law is very explicit. Men are guardians of women. Women are supposed to take permission from their husbands."
Submission was screened at the event. In one vignette, a Muslim woman has sex with her boyfriend. He leaves her and she is flogged. "That's what sharia would look like," Hirsi Ali said.