Niqab-wearer blocked again from class

The Quebec government has intervened again in the case of a Muslim woman who refused to remove her niqab veil during a French-language class.

Last week, Naïma Atef Amed filed a complaint with the province’s human rights commission after she was kicked out of a government-funded language class for new immigrants at the CÉGEP de Saint-Laurent in Montreal. The school had demanded that Amed take off her niqab veil, which covers her head and face and leaves only her eyes exposed, for part of the class.

Premier Jean Charest defended the school’s decision, saying that people who expect to receive public services must show their face.

On Tuesday, the province’s Immigration Ministry said it was informed last week that Amed, who is of Egyptian origin, had enrolled in another French class at a different publicly funded centre in Montreal that permitted her to wear the niqab.

“As we did last time, we told her that we have pedagogical objectives to meet in our French immersion courses, that they have to be taken with her face exposed,” said Luc Fortin, a spokesman for the province’s Immigration Minister. “She refused to take off her niqab and she left the course.”

The government is not prepared to compromise, said Immigration Minister Yolande James Tuesday. “It is a question of common sense,” said James.

CBC News, 9 March 2010