Quebec women’s council calls for hjab ban

MONTREAL — The Quebec government should ban civil servants from wearing visible religious symbols at work to promote the province’s status as a secular society, the Quebec Council on the Status of Women says. That means female Muslim teachers should not be allowed to wear a hijab in public schools, said the council’s president, Christiane Pelchat. “Teachers are role models and they should be promoting equality between men and women,” Ms. Pelchat said.

She used the following example to show how reasonable accommodation would impinge upon the right to equality between the sexes. A teacher in a public elementary school converts to the Muslim faith and wishes to wear the niqab, the veil that covers her face in its entirety except for the eyes. But the council says the government should not let her display the religious symbol.

“The niqab sends a message of the submission of a woman, which should not be conveyed to young children as part of a secular education which is required to promote equality between men and women,” the council said it a statement released yesterday. The council has determined that the niqab is a religious sign that is discriminatory towards women, Ms. Pelchat said. “It is only women who are covered,” she said. “Are there Muslim men who are covered up?”

The council is a 20-member body that advises the government on issues relating to women., 27 September 2007