Muslims Want Religious Court; Jews Granted Similar Right in Civil Issues

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Blanchard, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

TORONTO - Canadian Muslims are hoping to borrow a leaf from the book of the country's Jewish community by establishing the right to settle civil issues in special "Shariah" courts, much as Canadian Jews are able to take disputes to rabbinical courts.

The newly formed Islamic Institute of Civil Justice says it plans to establish committees that will arbitrate marital disputes and other civil dealings gone wrong.

They will then file the agreements with the Canadian courts for ratification. Under recent amendments to Canadian law, an arbitrator's ruling cannot be appealed.

Many Canadian provinces now allow arbitrators or mediators, religious or not, to present courts with settlements as a way to relieve pressure on the legal system.

"Beit Din," or rabbinical courts, rule on matters of religious jurisdiction for the nation's Jewish community.

Canadian Muslim leaders concede the arbitration plan may not be welcomed or understood by all.

"It has nothing to do with stone throwing," explained Husain Bhayat, a retired teacher who helped form the institute at a Toronto meeting two months ago.

"It's community-based mediation and arbitration in civil cases - not criminal cases - that abides by Canadian law," he added. "It will save time, save money and save many families the agony of enduring a long court case. …