British Columbia Supreme Court Rules Against Polygamy

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

In a 270 page decision that seems to provide a detailed look into polygamy from the perspectives of law, sociology, and the personal experiences of witnesses, Justice Bauman of the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that there is a conflict between Canada’s law against polygamy and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but that the conflict is legally justified by the harms that the law is meant to avoid.  Secondly, the Justice ruled that the application of Section 293 can be applied to adult polygamous marriages.

Therefore the Justice ruled against polygamy in Canada.

On deeper inspection, Bauman’s opinion appears to be a carefully crafted argument in support of Western law curtailing polygamy, which fails to consider important facts which militate against such laws.

The decision is noteworthy because it is a detailed exploration of the field of polygamy.  It touches on Islam, respectfully, and explores the involvement of Muslims today in polygamy.  The opinion shows the solicited opinions of people providing social services to Muslim families on polygamy. The opinion even refers to Prophet Muhammad (s), and respectfully.

For months Supreme Court Justice Robert Bauman has been considering and preparing this judgment in a case to decide whether Canada’s law regarding polygamy is limited by its law regarding freedom of religious practice.

Although today’s ruling is not the final ruling on the matter (the result certainly may be appealed to Canada’s Supreme Court from the provincial Supreme Court), today’s ruling will necessarily be a a reference point for future discussion of polygamy in Canada and the US, despite its bias and failure to consider facts inconsistent with its conclusion, because it touches on many tangent issues, especially a deep exploration of Canadian historical law and the Canadian constitutional machinery in relation to polygamy and Section 293. 

The case at hand revolved around members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), which continues to espouse polygamy despite the mainstream Mormon church’s having turned away from the practice. Throughout a corridor of Western states and up into Canada (especially Bountiful, BC), many Mormons continue the practice despite the certain illegality in the US and the illegality until now of the practice in Canada.

The judgment is a measured look at many issues surrounding polygamy, but it does show some bias against polygamy from the beginning, by exploring the harms of polygamy over many pages—likely half the pages in the judgment either mention harms from polygamy or are in support of sections that explore the harm from polygamy.  The opinion does not explore an issue directly impacted by the law which is not enforced, namely sexual relations outside of marriage.  Bauman does not discuss whether it is fair to enforce s. 293 against polygamists but then fail to enforce the law against adulterers, or whether it is fair to enforce a law against adulterers while failing to consider the polyamorous activities of people who never marry.  He does not consider the evolving notions of what constitutes acceptable sexual behavior, for instance in the past in Western societies it was unacceptable for men and women to cohabit without marriage, and yet now many do so, and bear children without the benefit of legitimacy.  He failed to consider polygamy in relation to non-traditional marriages that are now legal in Western countries, such as same sex marriages.  While polygamy may be connected to harms in the specific fact pattern Bauman analyzed, it is very unclear that restrictions on polygamy can be enforced without hypocrisy by men, judges and politicians, who engage in affairs outside their marriages, or who otherwise engage in behavior that their ancestors would have had them imprisoned for.

Bauman looks at length at the harms he traces to the FLDS practice of polygamy, but does not consider alternative modes of polygamy, fact patterns that are different.  He argues that the majority of nations do not allow polygamy, but he does not delve very deeply into the figures concerning this—other writers have argued that the majority of the world’s people live in societies where polygamy is allowed.  Important nations allow polygamy, such as Malaysia, India, Egypt, and others.  Bauman does not contrast the harms of polygamy as FLDS practices it with the benefits of it in other contexts. 

Bauman in his opinion also explores Western historical bases for monogamous marriage.  He discusses the harmful effects on children groomed for and coaxed unwillingly into marriages with men many years their senior, who marry multiple women and girls without limits.  The judgment explored the fact that some men become an underclass of unattached bachelors for whom no wives are available.

He makes it clear that s. 293 is meant to apply without exception, not allowing any polygamy at all, and he discusses at great length the harms that he connects to polygamy.

Justice Bauman relates these harms as the basis for Section 293; he does conclude that there is a conflict between Section 293 and the Charter, (page 211 of the opinion), “I will hereby express my conclusion:  I accept the Amicus’ submissions that s. 293 violates the religious liberty of those persons I have described in a manner that is non-trivial and not insubstantial,” however in Canadian law as in US law there is a balance that must be performed between the “violation of religious liberty” and the harm such violation is meant to address. Since the facts before Bauman involved abuse and exploitation of minors on a large scale, and since his opinion focused on those harms, it is natural that his resulting opinion found that the Canadian criminal against polygamy justifiably violated those religious liberties.

The judge ruled that Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada (which outlaws polygamy) and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the conflict is “a law that is substantially constitutional and peripherally problematic,” the peripheral problem involving the application of Section 293 against people between 12 and 18 who are involved in polygamous marriages, until they turn 18 (a peripheral issue).

The implications of this court case to date are (1) that Canada will not be the sole Western state to endorse polygamy legally, (2) that Muslims are also constrained by Section 293—the application of 293 is not limited to the current facts of FLDS’s wholesale exploitation of minors, (3) the case will likely be appealed and will likely be affirmed, (4) the In the Matter of:  Constitutional Question Act, RSBC 1986, Docket S097767, is likely required reading for anyone interested in the Western legality of polygamy, and will likely be required reading for some time.

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Democracy Within Islam

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Tunis / Tunisia–About one and one half months ago, I was allowed to sit through the comments of a Professor Alfred Stefan here in Tunis via the miracle of cyber transmission.  He has held Professorships in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Continent.  Amongst many other remarkable accomplishments, he was the founder (in 2006) and currently is the Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Tolerance and Religion housed at New York City’s Columbia University.  He has authored or co-authored many books.  Of the most interest to our audience is Democracy, Islam and Secularism: Turkey in Comparative Perspective (Columbia University Press, forthcoming in 2012)which he co-edited and his manuscript which he, also, co-edited — that is under consideration at the same academic press — Indonesia, Islam, and Democracy: Comparative Perspectives.

Stefan, was invited to Tunis  by the Washington “think tank” the Center for the Study of Democracy and Islam whose founder / Director, Radwan Masoudi, is a natal son of Tunisia, chaired the event.
Now, the Tunisians were not only the first nation that overthrew their North African ancien regime, but have been the most successful of the emerging democracies within the Arab “Spring.” 
As Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Libya and Iraq went through a period of Arab-palatable socialism during the post-revolutionary period from the (former) Colonial powers which helped these nations lunge developmentally forward from their independence.  These regimes, however, became more autocratic as time progressed with their increased wealth, but to hold on to power the succeeding elites increased repression and corruption against their own citizens.  Yet their populations desired evermore a greater share of the wealth.   

With the overthrow of the (comparatively) liberal monarchy in (non-Arabic but Islamic) Afghanistan during the 1970s, and the invasion subsequent invasion of the Hindu Kush Mountains by Moscow at the end of that decade to bolster the Communist-controlled system there from increasing resistance to the Afghan Communist Party-controlled system by civil society there.  Consequently, a War of resistance ensued in which a large number of Arab “mercenaries” entered the mountainous battle theater – many of those from the very oppressive nations that they were previously battling that fell or may fall to this Arab “Spring.”

As civil society in Islam now believes Socialism to be “godless,” and that and the traditional monarchies to be corrupt, bourgeois democracy (there has always been an Islamic “capitalism”) now has its appeals as offering a better way to achieve the hopes and aspirations of Muslims in the region.  Yet, what truly is the Islamic path to such a future political ascendancy?

Alfred Stefan began his proposals by questioning the acceptance for the democratic within the Arabic-speaking world.  If the Tunisians can become successful, it will make an impression upon the North American peoples of a sea-change over much of the North African / Middle Eastern world.  Further, it would disprove the Israeli propaganda that Arabs are incapable of democratic governance.   
The truth is that 483 million Muslims are under democratic administrations already.

As your author has been heard to say on these pages previously, Stefan, also, whose English-language books have been translated into Arabic, and, whose ideas are known amongst the intelligentsia within the Punic space stated that there cannot be a singularity of democracy or even of modernity itself.  That is, as your reporter and he , further, holds Westminster or Jeffersonian democracy are not the only molds that can enfold equality, but there are other possible forms for the diverse Islamic peoples, too — not limited to the Arabic but to every ethnic sub-grouping within that religious classification.  In fact Stefan and your journalist, also, have determined that this prerequisite for the success of democracy to take root under any particular soil is the opening for such a diversity of possibility.  Democracy is unique to any time or place or the uniqueness of its religious environment.  Although it is not necessary for “Church” and State to be  synonymous, but rather the religious aspirations of the populace are vital to the form of its flowering.    Muslim Indonesia is the largest Islamic country in world, and the most emancipated within ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).  Succinctly, Stefan declares “There is nothing that can keep countries from having a democracy… Militaristic Turkey is the most secular country within Dar al Islam, but the present government’s dominating party is reversing much of Ataturk’s policies.  Under the traditional modern State’s regulation there, a parliamentarian cannot repeat the word ‘hajib’ while in the legislature, yet 50% of Turkish women wear one!  Still, students with religious training’s application to any of Ankara’s universities will be rejected.”  There are many incorrect assumptions about Islam’s relationship with democracy within the Occident.

Most Islamic nations respect other religions.  There are up to 90 paid religious holidays per annum, depending upon the nation-state within Europe, but not one public holidays is for a non-European religious observance while Indonesia has public religious celebrations for its varied belief fabric.  There is a co-celebration between faith communities on the Archipelago, too. 

A 100% of Christian-majority European countries support Christian religious schools. These institutions are at least partially subsidized by the State.

“In your nation [Tunisia], you have a history… of toleration.”  Tunisia’s modern structure has come from France, and speaks in terms of Parisian democratic forms in the same breath with the nation’s similarities with Sub-Saharan Senegal.

“Any country that develops democracy has to develop toleration!..Democracy has to cultivate a high-level mutual toleration…If Tunis develops democracy, she will realize the possible,” and America will learn about the Maghreb (finally).  “Tunisia has the best chance democratizing than anywhere else within the Arab ‘Spring.’”

On the other hand, “Syria is a difficult [case].”  Ethnic rules, and the fears they engender [has generated] slaughter.  Egypt’s success so far was based on their military to fire on their own countrymen;  thus, they should inherit Mubarak’s régime.  Lebanon is so overshadowed by its battle for the Levant with Israel; therefore, fair elections [there] will be complex.

Whether democracy will envelop or not over the expanse, “things will never be the same.”

Authoritarianism has gone and won’t come back.  Hundreds of millions of persons watched the Tunisian and Egyptian “revolutions” while several decades ago we turned our backs on the then Algerian elections wherein the Islamists won leading up to an unbelievably brutal Civil War.  Yet, the recent two civil insurrections over Northern Africa have changed U.S. impressions.

Democracies are created through elections.  “Parties must trust each other.  If not, there is only a minute possibility for democracy…They will find themselves in non-democratic situations.  The democratic means that a party will hold power only temporarily.  After the initial period, voters will re-evaluate, and the power structure may shift.”

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Tariq Ramadan to visit Detroit MuslimFest

April 1, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

tariq-ramadan Tariq Ramadan will be the keynote speaker on April 11 in Detroit. He will address a Sound Vision benefit speaking on the topic of “Jihad within young hearts: Toward positive engagement”.

The event organizer, Sound Vision, says that young Muslims today face tremendous pressures. These pressures arise from a variety of sources: adjusting to a culture different from their parents’ culture, living and working in environments often hostile to Islamic values, facing outright prejudice that results from the constant negative portrayal of Muslims in the media. Muslim youth are among the least happy and the most angry among American youth groups, according to one Gallup poll; 16% Muslim youth participate in binge drinking; and 29% use some other name to hide their faith.

Speaking for Sound Vision Quaid Saifee said that the April 11 benefit offers a multimedia presentations on these topics along with what is being slated as Mini MuslimFest. It will feature live Adam mascot which is the main character in children’s Adam’s World series produced by Sound Vision. The Sunday event will take place in Burton Manor, Livonia, MI.

This is the first time Tariq Ramadan is visiting Detroit area. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently ended US visa ban on Swiss Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan entering the country.

The State department spokesman Darby Holladay said “Both the president and the secretary of state have made it clear that the US government is pursuing a new relationship with Muslim communities based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

2004, Tariq Ramadan was to join his tenured position at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana when his visa was revoked.

The event will focus on the challenges faced by Muslim youth according to the latest Gallup poll and Columbia university research and will offer some concrete suggestions about what the community must do. For more information visit www.SoundVision.com/TariqRamadan

—-contact: Quaid Saifee: 586-944-7880

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Community News (V12-I9)

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Duke’s Muslim chaplain to give opening prayers at US house

4E90 DURHAM –- Duke University’s Muslim chaplain, Abdullah T. Antepli, will deliver the opening prayer for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., at 10 a.m. March 3.

Antepli is serving as guest chaplain at the invitation of U.S. Rep. David Price.

“I am deeply humbled and honored to be asked to give this opening prayer. It is a great honor for me and for Duke University,” Antepli said in a news release. “It’s wonderful that Congress, through their invitation, is acknowledging Duke’s commitment to diversity and a pluralistic society.”

Antepli, who joined Duke in July 2008, is one of only a handful of full-time Muslim chaplains at U.S. colleges and universities. He is the founder and executive board member of the Muslim Chaplains Association and a member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains. He also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Duke Divinity School and Duke Islamic Studies Center, where he teaches courses on Islam.

The guest chaplain program is sponsored by the Office of the Chaplain of the House of Representatives. Guest chaplains must be recommended by current members of Congress, and each member is allowed to recommend only one religious leader per session. Opening the House of Representatives in prayer is a tradition that began in 1789 with the first Continental Congress.

Columbia MSA discusses Sunni-Shia unity

NEW YORK, NY–The Muslim Student Association of Columbia University held a lecture by Imam Ammar Nakshawani on the importance of uniting Sunni and Shia Muslims.

“There needs to be dialogue in order to bridge the gap,” Nakshawani said in his lecture on Thursday. The word “dialogue,” he added, stems from the Greek word “dia,” which means “to see through the lens of another person.” “For so many years, when Shiites and Sunnis tried to bridge the gap, the Shiite would look through his lens. The Sunni would look through his.”

In his address, Nakshawani asked the audience to put aside political and theological differences between Sunnis and Shiites and focus on the group’s shared fundamental beliefs, such as the oneness of Allah, Muhammad’s (s) role as the prophet of Allah, and the five pillars of Islam.

“Take off your lenses and see through the eyes of someone else,” Nakshawani said.

He criticized he speeches of Sunni and Shiite clerics who use negative phrases, such as “atheist sinners” and “infidels,” to incite hatred of the other sects.

Muslim cemetery proposed in Connecticut

CANTERBURY,CT–The Connecticut Council of Masajid is planning to establish a Muslim cemetery in Canterbury. They have identified a 11 acre site which was recently toured by the area residents and the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission.

Abdul Hamid, president of Council of Masajid, has been in Connecticut since 1966 and lives in Hampton. He said he has always found a friendly mix of people in the state.

“This is an opportunity to get to know people,’’ he said of the walk through the woods.

The group has an option to purchase the Canterbury property for $300,000 from Daniel M. Cymkow. According to the wetlands application, a 12- to 15-foot wide driveway would wind through the land. The first and second phases of the cemetery would be four acres each, and the third phase would be 17 acres. The land would not be clear cut, Hamid said.

If a wetlands permit is approved, the group would still need a special exception permit from the Planning & Zoning Commission.

First Halal Meals on Wheels Program Introduced in US

DETROIT, MI–The Arabic Community Center for Economic and Social Services has launched what is the first Halal  Meals on Wheels program in the US. The program delivers hot Halal meals to seniors who require care and was launched last month in Dearborn.

Amne Darwish Talab of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services told the Detroit News that  there has been a need for this type of service for a long time.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have the same living conditions as they did before this economic crisis,” said Talab, ACCESS’s social services. “A lot of seniors have no family or no kids or their kids are in another state.”

The program currently has about 20 recipients and is expected to grow.

Muslim students help the homeless in Orlando

ORLANDO, FL–The Muslim Student Association at the University of Central Florida has launched a program which not only provides food for the homeless but also gives then clean , new socks.

Project Downtown is a part of MSA National that was started by students in Miami who wanted to give the homeless more than food, the Central Florida Future reported.

The project is founded on the idea that people should not only give food but also whatever modest, unconditional gifts they can offer, according to Project Downtown’s Web site.

Huma Khan, a mechanical engineering major and the Director of Project Downtown, Orlando, said that the sock donation was one way to give more to the community.

“It’s just a random thing we picked out that homeless people do need,” she said. “Socks, underwear, stuff like that. Just little things that we look over that people in the streets actually do need and that they appreciate a lot more than we do.”

Khan added that the members of Project Downtown, Orlando give the homeless someone to talk to.

“Us being here kind of just gives them something to look forward to,” she said. “I build relationships with people. I know who they are, I know them by face…if you have a good conversation with someone one week, it’ll kind of make your day a little bit better and you’ll look forward to speaking to that person again.”

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