International Law

Cultural Clash Pits Islamic Law Against Canadian & U.K. Traditions


In yet another example of a growing cultural clash between local practices and the religious rights of Muslim immigrants that has become a hot-button issue in a number of non-Islamic countries, a Canadian newspaper has stepped to the fore. It says statutory law in the province of Ontario seems to require that extra government benefits be paid to families in which one husband has multiple wives, as long as they were legally married in a country that allows polygamy.

And Mumtaz Ali, president of the Canadian Society of Muslims, confirms that such benefits are being paid. However, government officials deny that they are knowingly doing this, and claim that it is illegal for families in which there is more than one wife to seek multiple benefits, reports the Toronto Sun.

A similar controversy is already well under way in the United Kingdom, where a senior leader of the Church of England has been on the hot seat after reportedly calling for Islamic law to be put on a parallel track with British law, concerning some legal issues.

And there, too, multiple benefits are not only paid to polygamous Muslim families formed in countries where this was legal, but the government openly acknowledges doing so, writes the London Times in an opinion column.

“It is one thing to respect Muslims’ need for halal butchery or for Sharia-compliant mortgages: these are genuine religious differences that harm nobody,” the newspaper writes. “But polygamy, forced marriages and (dis)honour violence are practices more cultural than religious. They … have no place in modern Britain. They do not deserve respect or even toleration.”

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