Are Islamic mortgages compatible with Quebec-style secularism?

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon undoubtedly sinned by anachronism when he denounced “a concerted action to erase us”. On the other hand, we must recognize the Trudeau government as having a remarkable talent for provocation.

After its pre-budget offensive in areas of provincial jurisdiction, the budget itself contained another discovery: the possibility of introducing “Islamic mortgages” into the Canadian banking system.

It was not enough for Ottawa to prepare to support the challenge to the Law on State Secularism before the Supreme Court; he also had to wave this red rag in front of the bull. After all, if religion can have a place in public institutions, why not in banks, right?

As was to be expected, the Legault government was quick to react. “We are clearly uncomfortable with this idea,” declared the minister responsible for Secularism, Jean-François Roberge. “Treating people differently, from a banking point of view, based on their religious beliefs contradicts the choices that Quebec has made. » Secularism is one of the rare subjects on which the Coalition Avenir Québec can still hope to rally a majority of Quebecers.

Unsurprisingly, the Parti Québécois has also expressed its opposition, but the Liberal Party and Québec solidaire (QS), both opposed to Bill 21, are clearly embarrassed. “We will take the time to study the issue before making a decision,” declared the Liberal MP for Marguerite-Bourgeoys, Frédéric Beauchemin, while QS prefers to wait to see if the Trudeau government will decide to move forward. during next fall’s economic update. And pray that he changes his mind.


The leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, denounced what in his eyes would constitute “a dangerous precedent”, which would be created for purely “clientelist” reasons by a government seeking to “crop the vote of the Canadian Muslim minority and Quebecois”.

Islamic or “halal” mortgages, which replace the payment of interest with other forms of fees, are not unanimously accepted even within the Muslim community, which has been debating it for years. In 2009, the Saudi group AlBassam House asked the Harper government for authorization to open a first bank offering this service in Canada, which is not permitted by law.

After examining the issue at length, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) ruled out this possibility, which is not yet of interest to any of the major banks. Those wishing to take out a halal-type mortgage that complies with Sharia law can contact Muslim cooperatives.

One of the fiercest opponents on this subject, whom the Bloc Québécois called to witness, is Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Congress of Canada, not to be confused with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, strongly opposed to Bill 21.

This journalist of Pakistani origin, who has had a fairly eventful career, notably campaigned for the New Democratic Party, whose door he slammed because he considered it too welcoming to Islamists.

Already, fifteen years ago, he was delighted with the rejection of Islamist mortgages by the CMHC. “It targets vulnerable and marginalized Muslims, who are told that if they deal with non-Muslims they will go to hell. It’s like the Catholic Church of the 13the century,” he said.


Moreover, as in the case of wearing the veil, the ban on interest would result from a questionable interpretation of the Koran by the Islamist movement. It is rather “usury” that the holy book would prohibit, that is to say an excessive interest rate.

Not everyone has the same reservations. To Mr. Fatah’s criticism, the magazine Maclean’s had opposed those of a professor at the University of Toronto, Walid Hejazi, according to whom Canada had every interest in opening up to “Islamic finance”.

Demand will increase and Canada risks being excluded from a global market that will reach hundreds of billions, he argued. According to him, the Islamic mortgage is a financial product like any other which can be used by both a Muslim and a non-Muslim.

In addition to the economic aspect, allowing people to have access to financing compatible with their religious beliefs “would be consistent with Canada’s fundamental values ​​and our proud history,” added Mr. Hejazi. The question is whether this is consistent with those of Quebec.

The possibility of introducing religious considerations into the financial system was not discussed during the debate on secularism, but it would probably have raised an outcry. Justin Trudeau is undoubtedly not trying to deliberately provoke Quebec. It’s simply that the latter is not part of his vision of Canada. Still, he’s playing with fire.

To watch on video

source site-48