Canadian muslim women culture identity and struggle for social justice
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Canadian Muslim Women Culture, Identity, and Struggle for Social Justice. OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting Side Event September 27, 2005. Agenda. About CCMW Activities and Projects Three-year Strategic Plan Data Reports & Fact Sheets

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Canadian Muslim WomenCulture, Identity, and Struggle for Social Justice


Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

Side Event

September 27, 2005


  • About CCMW

  • Activities and Projects

  • Three-year Strategic Plan

  • Data Reports & Fact Sheets

  • Partnerships, Coalition-building and Political Action

  • Next Steps

Canadian Council of Muslim Women

  • Founded in 1982

  • Pro-faith organization with close to 1,000 members across Canada

  • The Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) is a national non-profit organization of believing women committed to the equality, equity and empowerment of Muslim women. CCMW promotes Muslim women's identity in the Canadian context and encourages mutual understanding between Canadian Muslim women and women of other faiths.

Guiding Principles

  • We invite Muslim women to join us in achieving our common goals.

  • We are guided by the Quranic message of God's mercy and justice, and of the equality of all persons, and that each person is directly answerable to God.

  • We value a pluralistic society and foster the goal of strength and diversity within a unifying vision and values of Canada. Our identity of being Muslim women of diverse ethnicity and race is integral to being Canadian.  

  • As Canadians we abide by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the law of Canada.  

  • We believe in the universality of human rights, which means equality and social justice, with no restrictions or discrimination based on gender or race.  

  • We are vigilant in safeguarding, enhancing our identity, and our rights to make informed choices amongst a variety of options.  

  • We acknowledge that CCMW is one voice amongst many who speak on behalf of Muslim women and that there are others who may represent differing perspectives.  

  • We aim to be actively inclusive and accepting of diversity among ourselves, as Muslim women.


  • To attain and maintain equality, equity, and empowerment for all Canadian Muslim women.  

  • To promote Muslim women's identity in the Canadian context.  

  • To assist Muslim women to gain an understanding of their rights, responsibilities, and roles in Canadian society.  

  • To promote and encourage rapprochement and interfaith dialogue between Muslims and other faith communities.  

  • To contribute to Canadian society the knowledge, life experiences and ideas of Muslim women for the benefit of all.  

  • To strengthen the bonds of sisterhood among the Muslim communities and among Muslim individuals.  

  • To stimulate Islamic thinking and action among Muslim women in the Canadian setting.  

  • To acknowledge and respect the cultural differences among Canadian Muslim women and to recognize and develop our common cultural heritage.  

  • To promote a better understanding of Islam and the Islamic way of life in the North American setting.  

  • To represent Canadian Muslim women at national and international forums.  

  • To encourage the organization and coordination of Muslim women's organizations across Canada.

Activities & Projects

  • Variety of activities and projects over the years depending on issues and priorities:

    • Conferences and workshops

    • Research and publications

    • Collaboration with equality seeking organizations

    • In My Skin Resource Kit

    • Voices of Women: post 9/11 focus groups and report

Activities & Projects

From the 3-year Strategic Plan:

  • Increase integration/participation of Muslim women so that they can be effective agents of change in society

    • Held Forum in Montreal “Engaging Muslim Women in Civic and Social Change” in Oct. ’03

Activities & Projects

From the 3-year Strategic Plan:

  • Build capacity to increase effectiveness/visibility & provide a voice for Muslim women

    • Holding regional meetings to build capacity at the local level

    • Recruited Executive Director/Admin. Assistant

    • Increased use of technology – significant increase in visits to the web site; created list serve

Activities & Projects

From the 3-year Strategic Plan:

  • Assess Muslim women’s needs and assess increased participation/presence in the community, e.g. in politics, community orgs., educational institutions, and business, etc.

    • Civic participation survey conducted in Oct. ’03 to form baseline

    • Statistics Canada data analyzed; reports released

    • Needs assessment survey questionnaire and focus groups to be launched this fall

Activities & Projects

From the 3-year Strategic Plan:

  • Produce media/communications products to foster a positive awareness of Muslim women as active participants in Canadian society

    • Board members participated in training, At Ease with the Media – learning to be shared at the regional meetings

    • Workshop held at the forum on preparing a media kit

    • Media Relations Handbook updated – used for training chapters at regional meetings

Activities & Projects

From the 3-year Strategic Plan:

  • Foster greater understanding of issues faced by Muslim women

    • Research/write Fact Sheets on:

      • Data & Facts about Muslim women in Canada

      • Political Participation of Muslim Women in Canada

      • Bias and Discrimination Against Muslim Women

    • Position papers to be published in collaboration with academic researchers

Activities & Projects

From the 3-year Strategic Plan:

  • Advocacy and collaboration with other organizations

    • WWIW, NCWC, NOIVMWC, Afghan Women’s Organization, CASSA, Women’s Political ConneXion, Karamah, etc.

    • Continue use and promotion of Resource Kit, In My Own Skin

Activities & Projects

From the 3-year Strategic Plan:

  • Data reports and fact sheets

    • Muslim Women: Beyond the Perceptions

    • Triple Jeopardy: Muslim Women’s Experience of Discrimination

    • Muslim Women’s Civic Participation: From Polling Booths to Parliament

Muslim Women: Beyond the Perceptions

Need for Study

  • Myths and stereotypes about Muslim women abound

  • Increased interest in Muslims and Muslim women post-9/11

  • Previous information based on focus groups, interviews, anecdotal evidence

  • Fact-based information necessary to move CCMW’s work forward

Basic demographics

  • Data based on 2001 Census of Canada

  • Islam is the 2nd largest of the three Abrahamic faiths in Canada

  • 7th overall among six dozen faiths listed in 2001 Census

Basic demographics

  • First known Muslim woman in Canada pre-dates Confederation

  • 2001 Census counted 579,645 Muslims – 2.0% of the Canadian population

  • Just under one-half, 276,075 are women

  • 47.6% of Muslim women immigrated in the 1990s

  • Average age of a Muslim Canadian woman is 27

  • Almost one-quarter of Muslim Canadian women were born in Canada

Geographic concentration/dispersion

  • Largest concentration in Ontario, followed by Quebec, British Columbia & Alberta

  • 97% of Muslim women live in 11 largest metropolitan areas

Triple Jeopardy: Muslim Women’s Experience of Discrimination

Summary of Findings

  • Muslim women are the most discriminated of the faith communities for which the data are available. About one in three (30 per cent) of Muslim women reported having experienced one or more episodes of discrimination or unfair treatment. The Jewish community followed next with 23 per cent reporting similar experiences.

  • An overwhelming majority of Canadians in every region agree that Muslims are the main target of discrimination. 80 per cent of the Canadians questioned in 2004 said that Muslims encounter one or more incidents of discrimination or unfair treatment.

  • Canadians are comfortable in dealing with all faith and ethnic communities. However, their comfort levels vary depending on the community they are dealing with:

  • ·84 per cent of the Canadians would be comfortable with a Muslim teaching at their children’s school; the corresponding figures for other communities were in the mid-90s;

  • ·86 per cent had no problem with a Muslim boss, versus 96 per cent for the Jewish and 97 per cent for the black;

  • ·61 per cent would be at ease if their daughter or son married a Muslim, while 83 per cent said the same about the Jewish and the black;

  • However, about one in three (30 per cent) Canadians will not likely vote for a political party led by a Muslim; a Jewish leader drew that response from 12 per cent of the respondents, and the blacks fared better, with only 8 per cent

Muslim Women’s Civic Participation: From Polling Booths to Parliament

Summary of Findings

  • Muslims are the least likely of the faith communities to exercise the franchise. They are one-third less likely to vote than the Hindus and Sikhs, with whom they share some key demographic characteristics, and 40% less likely than the Jewish community, which is estimated to have the highest voter turnout rate.

  • Muslim women have a lower propensity to vote than men. Only 39% are estimated to have cast ballot in the 2000 federal general election, as compared with 45% for males. Muslim female voter turnout rate increased to 43% in the 2004 federal general election, but did not keep pace with the males 50% of whom voted that year.

  • While a Muslim male won a seat in the Alberta legislature in the mid-970s, it wasn’t until 1993 that a Muslim woman contested in a federal election. In the 1997 and 2000 federal elections, there was only one Muslim female candidate running on the ticket of a major party.

  • The number of Muslim female candidates increased to four in 2004. They accounted for about 24% of all Muslim candidates who ran for any party, including the small ones, that year.

  • Muslim women contest elections as Canadians who identify themselves with Islam, and hold a range of views on economic, political and social issues. At the national level, they have represented centrist and left-of-the-centre parties, including the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québecois.

  • While the NDP nominated three of the four Muslim female candidates in 2004 federal election, no Muslim female has ever been nominated by the Conservative Party or its forerunners.

  • At present, there are only two Muslim women serving in a provincial or federal legislature: Fatima Huda-Pépin, member of the Québec National Assembly and Yasmin Ratensi, Member of Parliament at the federal level.

Partnerships, Coalition-building and Political Action


  • Implementation of Muslim family law in Canada

    • Background

    • Response from proponents and opponents

    • Media reaction

    • CCMW position and actions

CCMW’s Response and Actions

  • Developed position paper

  • Commissioned research in partnership with National Association of Women and the Law and National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada

  • Extensive media representation and coverage; speaking engagements

  • Met with federal and provincial government officials/wrote to politicians

CCMW’s Response and Actions

  • At Regional Meetings, surveyed membership

    • 78 percent of participants believed that implementing Muslim family law will not improve the lives of Canadian Muslim women

  • Launched project “Muslim Women’s Equality Rights in the Justice System: Gender, Religion and Pluralism”

  • Engaged women’s organizations in discussions and mobilized action

CCMW’s Response and Actions

  • Launched project “Muslim Women’s Equality Rights in the Justice System: Gender, Religion and Pluralism” to:

    • Remove family matters from the Ontario Arbitration Act and ensure that other jurisdictions do not allow family matters to be settled using religious arbitration

    • Communicate CCMW position

    • Increase capacity of Muslim women to promote women’s equality rights and removal of religious arbitration in family matters

    • Evaluate and report on progress

    • Project funded by Status of Women Canada

Progress to date

  • Created information kit to educate media, politicians, public, Muslim and non-Muslim women

  • Preparation of “Muslim & Canadian Family Law: A Comparative Primer”

  • Groundswell of support

  • Coalition of over 100 organizations and prominent Canadian women

  • Support of women from all political parties

  • Ontario Government’s decision to disallow all faith-based arbitration

Next steps for CCMW

  • Needs assessment to take place this fall

  • Areas for further exploration:

    • Causes of underemployment & unemployment

    • Causes of under-participation in the labour market: cultural barriers vs. systemic barriers

    • Impacts since 9/11

    • Work/life challenges; choice to work vs. necessity

    • Impacts of a more traditional/conservative interpretation of Islam

    • Changing structures in Muslim families: causes and consequences

  • Continue with project on Muslim Women in the Justice System

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