Jun. 11, 2004. 01:00 AM

Proponents insist laws are misunderstood


The implementation of sharia tribunals in Canada would allow Muslim women "to have their cake and eat it too," said mediator Mubin Sheikh, during a pro-sharia debate last night.

The debate was hosted by An-Nise, a Muslim women's group, that aimed to dispel what they say are common fallacies of sharia law.

"Eighty per cent of the time, sharia law favours women, not men," Sheikh told the group of about 18 women at Sheridan Branch Library in Mississauga.

For example, he said, in divorce settlements Muslim women would be able to keep 100 per cent of their property under sharia law, whereas Canadian law could rule for a 50-50 spilt.

"We're waiting for a movement to champion men's rights," he said, jokingly.

Women and a handful of men watched a video presentation of the man spearheading the sharia movement, retired lawyer Syed Mumtaz Ali, respond to questions raised by women's groups about the potential of tribunals hurting women's rights.

Dr. Katherine Bullock holds a Ph.D in political science and converted to Islam 10 years ago.

She supports the concept of sharia law, but voiced her apprehensions in the details.

"My concerns are who will be the arbitrators. Can just anyone be an arbitrator? Whose word will it be in the end?"

Sheikh said couples must both agree on the choice of arbitrator and that the arbitrator should have a sound grasp of Islamic and Canadian law.

Sheikh acknowledged details "needed to be ironed out," but stressed that where sharia law conflicts with the Canadian Charter of Rights, the charter will prevail.

Bullock said women's groups who are campaigning against sharia tribunals are ill informed and misguided on the system.

Sheikh said that just because women had been abused under sharia law, that didn't make them experts on the system.

He said the system would be Canadianized.

"It's irrelevant if you experienced abuse in Iran, Nigeria. This is Canada."