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Official space(s) & contemporary Canadian nation-building : an analysis of the Shari’a proposal in the marginalization and privatization of Muslim women post 9/11 Rasul, Zahra Firoz


September 11, 2001 will be a date forever etched in the memories of people all over the world. For most in the Global North, it signaled a dangerous shift in international security and rise of "threat" to "freedom"; for most in the Global South, it meant being subjugated to a renewed set of imperial conquests of the Muslim world. For some of us in Canada, it marked the beginning of a series of exclusionary measures to definitively cast us as "the enemy". In the new "War on Terror", political and ideological lines delineate "us" and "them", "insiders" and "outsiders" to the Canadian nation (Thobani, 2003). But what about those of us who identify as both Canadian and Muslim? How are we implicated in this "war"? Particularly, how and where are Muslim women positioned in the debate, and how does our positioning effect Canada's reputation as a "benevolent", "inclusive" nation? (Razack, 2004) These issues lie at the root of contemporary Canadian nation-building post 9/11. In order to uncover the fractures and fissures in this debate, I engage in a case study of the Shari'a debate in Ontario in 2004.1 conduct an anti-racist feminist textual analysis of Marion Boyd's report (2004), which advocates for the recommendation of Shari'a tribunals to be permitted under the Ontario Arbitration Act 1991 in adjudicating family law issues. My findings suggest that the recommendation not only homogenizes the experience of all women subject to religious tribunals, but it also serves an important ideological function in both Canada's maintenance of "Whiteness" in the nation and promotion of "altruism" to the rest of the world. I argue that these functions are achieved through the systematic marginalization and privatization of Muslim women to "official Othered spaces", while reflecting on my own positionality as a Canadian Muslim woman.

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