How do you solve a problem like sharia?

“All justice comes from God; he alone is its source. But if we knew how to receive it from so exalted a source, we would have no need for government or laws.” – Jean Jacques McGuinty

Premier McGuinty’s decision to not sanction Sharia-based tribunals as a form of arbitration, and ban other religious-based arbitration sanctioned in Ontario since 1991 is likely the best decision he will ever allow himself to make as Premier.

Doubtless, McGuinty considered the potential disadvantage for vulnerable members of Ontario’s Muslim communities under religious based arbitration. Surely he considered how a decision to not sanction religious arbitration for Ontario’s Muslim communities, while continuing to sanction other religious tribunals, would appear as a condemnation of Islam.

I think McGuinty also considered the social contract and determined that Sharia, and any other religious based law, is fundamentally incompatible with a society structured around sovereign created law. Perhaps McGuinty would agree with Rousseau that, in our society, “it is no longer necessary to ask who is to make the laws, since they are the acts of the general will; nor whether the prince is above the laws, since he is a member of the state; nor whether the law can be unjust, since no one is unjust to himself; nor how one is both free and subject to the laws, since they are merely the record of our own wills.” Private religious law is simply not in our contract.

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10 Comments

  1. Manatee said,

    Thursday, 15 September 2005 at 1:21 pm

    Actual title possibilities suggested by O’Smiley:

    Religious tribunals to have an ontario funeral

    Sharia later, alligator

    Say good-bye to religious tri, bunals that is.

    I like the top one, I couldn’t fit alligators into the post.

  2. O'Smiley said,

    Thursday, 15 September 2005 at 1:29 pm

    Manatee, I thought you were going to use Sharia later, alligator 🙂

    I have to agree with you. This is the best resolution to this debate. As far as I know however (I’m not completely sure), this decision does not completely prevent religion arbitration, but merely prevents the ruling of such an arbitration from being legally binding. Because of this, those raised to believe that such arbitration is “as good as law” may still be subject to such “rulings” of which the main critics of sharia law are afraid of.

    I guess what I am saying is that it is good that the government of Ontario acknowledges that this is not right, but I don’t think that this decision will prevent sharia arbitration from occurring. I would fear that a lack of knowledge in personal rights, and fear of religious persecution from ones community and family, may prevent those who are wronged by this arbitration from pursuing it legally.

  3. Manatee said,

    Thursday, 15 September 2005 at 2:54 pm

    Certainly many devout religious followers will continue to seek the advice of religious leaders and religious based solutions in place of legal advice and solutions, and vulnerable members of these communities still remain at risk. At least this will be less state sanctioned than before.

    Since you, I, and Rousseau would all agree that “there is a universal justice emanating from reason alone,” we should feel free to disard the claim that all justice comes from God (either by realizing that God is a man’s construction, God’s justice is unknowable, or God’s justice is the same as justice from man’s reason) and begin our unrelenting attack on religion, as a part of the superstructure, in defence of our subaltern class.

  4. O'Smiley said,

    Thursday, 15 September 2005 at 6:23 pm

    We have been barraged with spam comments lately (I just deleted 7 on this post), so I have turned on word verification for comments. Hopefully this will stop it.

  5. Chris from Manatee's pol-econ class said,

    Friday, 16 September 2005 at 10:45 am

    It is interesting that you would choose the promoter of civil religion to begin your crazed attack on religion itself, though I think Rousseau would agree with your defense of sovereign created law, with it’s air of universality (both in creation and application) over some religious tribunal. In fact, universality seemed quite important, “But when the ENTIRE populace enacts a statute concerning the ENTIRE populace… without any division of the whole… it is this act that I call a law.”

    As for your ‘unrelenting attack’ on religion, which you frame in the language of Marx and Gramsci, it’s nice to see you havn’t changed since our class together. I wonder if oyur favorite philosophers would have supported such an attack. I think Marx considered religion to be a reflection of society and would have considered such an attack inconsequential in the big picture without class consiousness. Gramsci seemed to have a respect for religion as a tool in the arsenal of the subaltern.

  6. Manatee said,

    Friday, 16 September 2005 at 1:34 pm

    Well, Gramsci certainly was a secularist, a ‘positive secularist’. But that may mean he would be critical of O’Smiley’s forthcoming attack on religion.

  7. O'Smiley said,

    Friday, 16 September 2005 at 2:17 pm

    My attack on religion?

    What’cho talk’n ’bout foo?

  8. Manatee said,

    Friday, 16 September 2005 at 2:35 pm

    I thought you were on board, O’S.

  9. Gnomes said,

    Sunday, 18 September 2005 at 11:20 am

    I can’t believe you missed one of the best title opportunity in the history of M&G&O’S.

  10. O'Smiley said,

    Sunday, 18 September 2005 at 1:27 pm

    I don’t think I have ever seen a post title change as often as this title has.–>


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