Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Using Shari'ah to Advance Rights for Female Clients

As a practicing lawyer over the past fourteen years, I am frequently consulted by femal Muslim clients who wish to advance their rights using Islamic law. Contrary to perception, Muslim women are more likely to raise Islamic law in Canada than their male counterparts. Some women may, in fact, be better off using Islamic law.

The situation may be no different in the United States. Rafia Zakaria, an American lawyer and Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Indiana University, seems to suggest this as well. Here is a short piece written by Canadian law student Omar Ha-Redeye about one of Rafia's cases where she used Islamic law to enhance the rights of a female client from Jordan who had been married, abused in the U.S., and finally divorced. As I have argued in the past, Omar suggests that a sobre evaluation of the situation should make us reconsider whether Islamic law should be banned outright as was ostensibly done in Ontario (in arbitrations). A regulated and more nuanced case-by-case consideration may actually help advance the rights of women while ensuring that religious freedom is protected. In fact this was the conclusion by former Ontario Attorney General Marion Boyd, who was commissioned by the Ontario government to study the issue. Public opposition largely based on misunderstandings and xenophobia effectively led the government to reject their own report.

Here is a longer article discussing whether Islamic law may be useful in protecting Women's Rights by Rudi Stettner of the IndyPosted.

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