Monday, October 01, 2007

Great moments in multiculturalism, continued

Women's group targets hijab, yarmulke

If the Quebec Council on the Status of Women has its way, teachers, doctors and anyone working in a public institution in this province would not be permitted to wear hijabs or yarmulkes.

The council is calling on the Quebec government to ban what it calls visible religious symbols.

While a crucifix or a Star of David on a necklace would be acceptable, council president Christiane Pelchat said, public employees should not be permitted to wear such overt symbols as the hijab, a head covering worn by Muslim women, or the yarmulke, a skullcap worn by Jewish men.

The council plans to argue for a ban on religious symbols before Quebec's roving commission on "reasonable accommodation" of immigrants and religious minorities.

The commission's hearings are to wrap up Nov. 30.

That would mean female Muslim teachers would not be allowed to wear a hijab in public schools, Pelchat said this week during a meeting with The Gazette's editorial board.

"Teachers are role models and they should be promoting equality between men and women," Pelchat said. "Because you prevent someone from wearing a hijab, it doesn't mean you are preventing them from believing."

Pelchat, a former Liberal MNA, said the council believes "a secular state promotes freedom of religion for all believers of various denominations."

The council also stated it believes the right to equality between men and women trumps the rights to freedom of religion.

The Quebec Council on the Status of Women is a 20-member body that advises the government on issues relating to women.