Moral panic and ‘One [Secular] Law for All’: exploring the ‘Ontario Sharia Debate’

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University of New Brunswick


This thesis analyzes the Ontario Sharia Debate (OSD) as a potential example of a contemporary moral panic. After identifying the key concepts, events, and themes within the OSD, the results are compared to the criteria elicited from the four main approaches to moral panics. This involves an elucidation of the theories and background behind the moral panic approaches created by Stanley Cohen, Stuart Hall et al., Erich Goode & Nachman Ben-Yehuda, and Chas Critcher. From the findings generated, an analytical framework is created for each approach. Comparing the OSD to these moral panic frameworks, it is determined that the OSD events do meet the criteria of at least two approaches: one provides valuable diagnostic measures (Goode & Ben-Yehuda), while the other traces the trajectory of events (Cohen). The comparisons of moral panic approaches also provides the opportunity to assess each framework's capacity to account for all the pertinent elements within the OSD - and importantly, without putting forth criteria that do not suit the case. This raises both challenges and opportunities in regards to the two remaining approaches (i.e. Hall et al. and Critcher).