Religious Arbitration: A Measure of Legal Multiculturalism


Chancellor Day Hall Stephen Scott seminar room (OCDH 16) and Maxwell Cohen Moot Court (NCDH 100), 3644 rue Peel, Montreal, QC, H3A 1W9, CA

The McGill Arbitration Society and McGill’s Institute of Comparative Law invite you to a panel on religious arbitration. We will host Rabbi Michael Whitman, expert on Talmudic Law, and Professor Ahmed Ibrahim, expert on Islamic Law, to discuss the controversial issues on the intersection between mainstream legal culture and religion in the arbitral context.

Professor Natasha Bakht from the University of Ottawa, expert in both religious arbitration and family law, will moderate the event and bring other perspectives, particularly from Ontario, where the debate began.

Reception: 17:00-18:00, Stephen Scott Room (room 16), Old Chancellor Day Hall
Panel: 18:30-20:00, Moot Court (room 100), New Chancellor Day Hall

Food will be served. Please indicate any dietary restrictions. We will be ordering kosher and halal food.

RSVP to mcgill [at]

Accreditation is pending for 1.5 hours of continuing legal education for members of the Quebec Bar.

About the panelists and moderator

Rabbi Michael Whitman

Rabbi Michael Whitman is the spiritual leader of the ADATH (Adath Israel Poale Zedek Anshei Ozeroff Synagogue) in Hampstead, Quebec. He is also a Sessional Lecturer at McGill University Faculty of Law. Rabbi Whitman serves on the boards of Auberge Shalom…pour femmes, Kollel Torah Mitzion of Montreal, Cote St. Luc / Hampstead / Snowdon Eruv, Westmount Eruv, Rabbinical Council Conversion Program, and (former Executive Board Member) Rabbinical Council of America. He is past president of the Rabbinical Council of Montreal and past president of the Greater Montreal Board of Rabbis.

Rabbi Whitman served for fourteen years as the spiritual leader of Young Israel of New Haven, Connecticut, USA. During that time, he worked at Yale University Hillel and taught at Yale University Law School.

Ahmed Fekry Ibrahim

Professor Ahmed Fekry Ibrahim began his appointment at the Institute of Islamic Studies on August 1, 2012, following his appointment as Fellow in Europe in the Middle East—The Middle East in Europe (EUME) program at the Forum Transregionale Studien of the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, Germany in 2011-2012. He received his PhD in Islamic law from Georgetown University, Washington D.C. (2011). His dissertation, entitled “School Boundaries and Social Utility in Islamic Law: The Theory and Practice of Talfīq and Tatabbuʿ al-Rukhaṣ in Egypt”, traces the pragmatic use of Sunni legal pluralism in 20th-century Egypt to developments that took place in the Mamluk and Ottoman periods in court practice and legal theory.

His work explores the interaction between legal theory and court practice using both Ottoman archival materials and unpublished legal theoretical manuscripts. He links shifts in juristic discourse on the issue of pragmatic eclecticism to institutional as well as discursive changes that took place around the 13th century. He is currently working on a book that examines the interaction between court practice and legal theory in Egypt with regards to this question of legal pluralism and its implications for legal change.

Natasha Bakht

Natasha Bakht is an associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law. She served as a law clerk to Justice Louise Arbour at the Supreme Court of Canada and was called to the bar of Ontario in 2003.  Professor Bakht’s research interests are generally in the area of law, culture and minority rights and specifically in the intersecting area of religious freedom and women’s equality.  She has written extensively on the issue of religious arbitration in family law.  Her latest works are about the rights of niqab-wearing women; she was recently cited by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of R v NS.