Which Privileges for Islam?

by | Mar 18, 2005

Throughout the West, Muslims are making new and assertive demands, and in some cases challenging the very premises of European and North American life. How to respond? Here is a general rule: Offer full rights — but turn down demands for special privileges. By way of example, note two current Canadian controversies. The first concerns […]

Throughout the West, Muslims are making new and assertive demands, and in some cases challenging the very premises of European and North American life. How to respond?

Here is a general rule: Offer full rights — but turn down demands for special privileges.

By way of example, note two current Canadian controversies. The first concerns the establishment of voluntary Shariah (Islamic law) courts in Ontario. This idea is promoted by the usual Islamist groups, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Canada and the Canadian Islamic Congress. It is most prominently opposed by Muslim women’s groups, led by Homa Arjomand, who fear that the Islamic courts, despite their voluntary nature, will be used to repress women’s rights.

I oppose any role for Shariah, a medieval body of law, in public life today, but as long as women are truly not coerced (create an ombudsman to ensure this?) and Islamic rulings remain subordinate to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I see no grounds on which to deny Muslims the right, like other Canadians, to revert to private arbitration. [Editor’s Note: We agree to the extent that the Candian charter does not demand the violation of individual rights as the U.N. charter does.]

On the other hand, Muslim demands for an exclusive prayer room at McGill University in Montreal are outrageous and unacceptable. As a secular institution, the university on principle does not provide any religious group with a permanent place of worship on campus. Despite this universal policy, the Muslim Student Association, a part of the Wahhabi lobby, insists on just such a place, even threatening a human rights abuse filing if it is defied. McGill must stand firm.

The key distinction is whether Muslim aspirations fit into an existing framework or not. Where they do, they can be accommodated, such as in the case of:

Adherents of other minority religions may get a holiday off, wear beards, or dispose of their dead in private burial grounds — so why not Muslims?

In contrast, special privileges for Islam and Muslims are unacceptable, such as:

Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and a columnist for both the New York Post and The Jerusalem Post. His website, DanielPipes.org, offers an archive of his published writings and a si

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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