WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- The Canadian province of Quebec has passed a law on Wednesday banning face coverings for people in provincial government services.
- While the new law did not state specifically which type of face coverings are not allowed, the discussion has mostly concentrated on the niqab worn by some Muslim women.
- Quebec residents that would be impacted by the law are public-sector employees such as teachers, police officers, hospital and daycare workers.
Quebec is prohibiting public workers from wearing facial coverings like the niqab or burqa. It’s also requiring its citizens to remove their veil or covering while using public transit or government services.
Rights groups have condemned the law as marginalizing Muslim women. The new law will be effective July 1, 2018.
Quebec is mainly a French-speaking Canadian province. France also has a law banning veils, crosses and other religious symbols in schools in 2004. Quebec’s increasing Muslim population has made the province struggle to balance its secular identity.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard defended the law telling reporters, “We are just saying that for reasons linked to communication, identification and safety, public services should be given and received with an open face.”
“We are in a free and democratic society. You speak to me, I should see your face, and you should see mine. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
Concerned by the new law, the National Council of Canadian Muslims is looking for legal options. Its executive director, Ihsaan Gardee, said: “This legislation is an unjustified infringement of religious freedoms.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would continue to guarantee that Canadian citizens are protected by the country’s charter of rights and freedoms, “while respecting the choices that different legislative assemblies can make.”
Islamophobia has risen in Quebec in the past years. Earlier this year, six Muslim men were shot while praying in a Quebec City mosque. The suspect, a French-Canadian university student, has already been charged.
“Unfortunately, day after day, week after week, month after month, certain politicians, and certain reporters and certain media, poisoned our atmosphere,” Imam Hassan Guillet said during the eulogy for the men killed.
Quebec’s Muslims have been targeted by conservative extremist groups and a few local media in recent years. This is in relation to the accommodation of religious and cultural minorities in the province.
European countries like France, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and the German state of Bavaria have imposed restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils, like niqab and burka, in public places.