2009: Volume 2, Issue 1, pp. 73-89

Representing Canadian Muslims:
Media, Muslim Advocacy Organizations, and Gender
in the Ontario Shari’ah Debate

Meena Sharify-Funk



This paper analyzes a highly public conflict between two Muslim non-profit organizations, the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) and the Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC), as it played out on the pages of Canadian newspapers and Internet websites. Sparked by profoundly divergent convictions about gender norms and fuelled by contradictory blueprints for “being Muslim in Canada”, this incendiary conflict was fanned by Canadian media coverage. Focusing especially, but not exclusively, on the 2003-2005 debate over Shari’ah-based alternative dispute resolution in Ontario, I will argue that the media have played a role in constructing internal Muslim debates and identity negotiations concerning what it means to be genuinely Canadian and authentically Muslim through controversy-driven journalism that has highlighted opposing ends of a liberal/progressive versus conservative/traditional axis in a search for “point/counter-point” views. Through short stories and commentaries on controversial topicsthat juxtapose two increasingly antagonistic organizational voices, the media have not merely reflected Muslim realities, but also helped to shape them and, more often than not, reinforce polarization between a “majority Muslim” culture seeking to secure space for itself within Canadian society and a “dissident Muslim” culture that seeks to consolidate external support for internal change.



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