Quebec’s bill prohibiting public school teachers from wearing the hijab remains popular. Here, from this time last year, are comments — from immigrants from Muslim countries — on the bill:
“For me the hijab is a symbol of inferiority even if they [the Muslim teachers] say they don’t feel inferior or superior or equal to men. It’s a symbol of inferiority and I insist on that point,” said Ferroudja Mohand, who immigrated to Quebec from Algeria in 2011.
Mohand said she is worried that her daughter will be influenced by a teacher who wears the hijab at her school and decide to take up the practice.
“Teachers must be neutral because children are impressionable,” Mohand said.
Ensaf Haidar, whose husband is the imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, said she is “shocked” when she sees Quebec women dressed in Muslim religious clothing given how they are treated in Saudi Arabia.
“The hijab is not a good image for Quebec,” said Haidar, who fled Saudi Arabia not long before her husband’s arrest in 2012.
Djaafar Bouchilaoun, an Algerian immigrant and father of two, told the court he considered the hijab an affront to his “dignity as a man” because it supposes men are sexual threats to women.
A teacher who wears a hijab, he said, is sending “subtle messages” to children. He called the hijab a “symbol of Islamist proselytizing,” adding: “It is pernicious because of it.”
The parents were called by two pro-secular groups — Mouvement laïque québécois and Pour les droits des femmes du Québec — who have intervenor status in the case.
As part of their defence of the law, lawyers for Mouvement laïque québécois are arguing that rather than strip minorities of rights, Bill 21 upholds the rights of parents to have their children receive a secular education.
“This is a necessary condition for the freedom of conscience,” Guillaume Rousseau, a lawyer for the Mouvement, said in a recent interview.