A national Muslim civil rights advocacy organization today condemned a proposal by Parti Québécois (PQ) leader Pauline Marois to ban the Muslim headscarf and other religious-based attire in provincial government offices if the PQ forms government after upcoming September elections.
The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) decried the remarks made Tuesday by Madame Marois at a campaign stop in Trois Riviere that, under a PQ government, Muslim women who wear the hijab would be barred from participating in the Quebec civil service. The PQ says other "overt religious symbols" would likewise be banned, while the Catholic crucifix would remain in Quebec's National Assembly.
"Many Muslim women regard the hijab as an important and mandatory practice in their faith. The proposed exclusion of a targeted minority of women from the Quebec civil service under a PQ government undermines religious freedom and the democratic values of both Quebec and Canada. The PQ is once again using populist rhetoric and parochial ideas to advance their electoral strategy," said CAIR-CAN Human Rights Officer Julia Williams.
"It is ironic that PQ candidate Djemila Benhabib has stated that 'women's rights aren't negotiable' and yet she and her party support a move that would curb the rights of certain women to serve the people of Quebec and violate the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms," said Williams.
"CAIR-CAN calls on the Parti Québécois to immediately retract this proposed policy that would deny Muslim women who wear the headscarf their democratic right to participate in government."
Meanwhile, the PQ has come under fire from the Catholic xenophobic right. Djemila Benhabib, who does at least hold a more consistent view of secularism than Marois and the PQ leadership in that she not only supports a headscarf ban but also wants the crucifix removed from the National Assembly, has been attacked by the Catholic mayor of Saguena, Jean Tremblay.
In a radio interview Tremblay stated: "What shocks me, is to see us, the gentle French-Canadians, being told how to behave by someone from Algeria whose name we can't even pronounce." Apparently expanding his attack on Benhabib to all Québécois of recent migrant origin, he added: "They are quietly, and with nice language, eating away (at our traditions). They quietly start by removing the prayer in city hall, then they'll remove our religious objects, then they'll take away the crosses in cities and after that they'll go into the schools.... They'll do away with our religion and culture everywhere, and you won't notice."