Muslim community concerned about the long-term consequences and precedents set by Bill 94March 24, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Montreal, Quebec, March 24th, 2010- The Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM) expressed its fears today of the beginning of a slippery slope eroding the human rights of minority groups in Quebec, with today’s introduction of Bill 94. The bill requires both public servants dispensing government services as well as citizens receiving the services to have their faces uncovered while doing so.
“In many ways the Bill represents a knee-jerk reaction by government officials in order to appease a certain sector of our society, at the expense of others and at the expense of our basic fundamental rights,” Elmenyawi said. “Instead of resolving such delicate issues by means of discussion and mediation, the government has resorted to take it upon themselves to legislate the dress code of its citizens, without regard to future repercussions resulting from the Bill or from any misinterpretations over its ambiguous language.”
MCM notes that the components of the Bill that call for women wearing niqab to momentarily uncover their faces for instances of security or identification are already done voluntarily by women in niqab, for example for the police, ID cards, airport checks, exams etc. Moreover, it is concerned with the vague wording of the Bill related to the matter of communication with the government, and is afraid of what that might be misinterpreted by some to entail. There is also the potential for the Bill to isolate or ostracize certain members of Quebec society and deprive them from their opportunities of integrating and becoming productive members of society.
“It is particularly disheartening to hear those promoting the Bill to repeatedly focus on certain values of our society, as if the Bill is protecting those rights and women wearing the niqab are against those rights,” Elmenyawi said. “We all abide by and hold dear the values of freedom and equality, including the women who chose of their own will and right to dress as they deem fit. To suggest otherwise is both insulting and demeaning to the intelligence and integrity of these women; moreover, it is counterproductive to the establishment of a harmonious state environment of respect, understanding and cooperation.”
MCM will continue to study the Bill in further detail and work with the provincial government to propose changes or clarifications to the Bill, to eliminate the current ambiguity and to demonstrate reasonable sensitivity and respect towards those affected by the Bill.
Bill 94 was presented in the Quebec National Assembly by Justice Minister Kathleen Weil to establish guidelines on the wearing of religious clothing in the public sector, namely as related to incidents of safety, communication and identification.
Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM)
Ph.: (514) 748-8427
Fax: (514) 747-9139
The Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM) is an umbrella organization representing a number of Islamic institutions in the Montreal region. There are over 200,000 Muslims in Montreal, about 900,000 in Canada and 1.7 billion worldwide.