Quebec Rejects Use of Islamic Law

Quebec (search) on Thursday rejected the use of Islamic tribunals to settle family disputes, with one legislator saying that Sharia law could isolate the Muslim community in the French-speaking province.

The debate over Sharia (search) law surfaced in Canada two years ago when a Muslim group in Ontario proposed the arbitration of family disputes according to Islamic law.

The Quebec legislature on Thursday passed a motion against allowing Sharia, or Islamic, law to be used in the legal system.

"The application of Sharia in Canada is part of a strategy to isolate the Muslim community, so it will submit to an archaic vision of Islam," said Fatima Houda-Pepin, a Liberal member of the legislature.

Under Ontario's Arbitration Act (search), parties who wish to avoid the courts by choosing arbitration to resolve family law and inheritance issues may be allowed to make use of religious tribunals.

The 1991 Act said religious laws must be bound by Canada's secular ones, but some conservative Muslim groups have tried to push the legislation to enforce Sharia, a code of conduct based on the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

Opponents of Sharia law in Canada say that the country's 750,000 Muslims come from different backgrounds and strains of Islam. Under most interpretations, women's rights to seek divorce are limited.