A Muslim Woman in hijab in front of Canadian flag
Muslim women reported an alarming increase in verbal and physical harassment following Quebec’s introduction of the legislation.

In a move that will surprise few, the famously secular Quebec has become the first Canadian province to ban the wearing of religious symbols and religious head coverings for its public servants.

The passing of Bill 21, “An Act Respecting the Laicity of the State,” means government employees in public schools, courtrooms, and law enforcement agencies can no longer wear any religious headwear or symbols. No religious items are excepted, meaning the Muslim hijab, Jewish kippah, Sikh turban, and Christian cross are all essentially banned.

Quebec’s center-right government passed the law in June following a marathon parliamentary session some critics claim ignored their staunch opposition. And yet, a recent poll revealed 63 percent of Quebecers support such a ban among judges, police officers and prison guards, while 59 percent back similar restrictions on teachers. Interestingly, only 28 percent of those respondents held a positive view of Islam and only 37 percent had a positive view of Muslims. Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, suggested that anti-Islam sentiment drives support for the restrictions: “[the ban is] mainly driven by the hijabs, and the other religious symbols are collateral damage.”

Religious Restriction

The controversial law comes as several European countries seek to restrict the display of religious symbols, with Muslim women wearing a hijab bearing the most visible brunt.

France banned burkas and niqabs in public and even tried to restrict full-body swimsuits with head coverings (“burkinis”) on its beaches. Belgium, Austria, and Denmark also implemented full-face veil bans, encouraging neighboring European countries to consider the same.

Quebec Premier François Legault used Europe’s precedent to justify Bill 21, which some see as the legal manifestation of longstanding fears that broader Canadian multiculturalism will erase the French-speaking province’s distinct identity. Defending the bill, Legault said to CBC, “so when I hear some people saying that Quebec becomes racist, do they mean that Germany, France, and Belgium are racist?”

Quebec lawmakers who support the ban will argue that state secularism should come above all else, an enlightened conclusion for a society that was largely under the control of the Catholic Church until the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. The fact that the large cross that hung on the wall of the provincial Parliament in Quebec City for decades was finally taken down to prove Bill 21 applies equally to all religions shows how far Quebec lawmakers are willing to go to prove a point.

Legalized Islamophobia?

Civil-liberties activists see the law as part of a trend of anti-Muslim sentiment in the province. They argue the new law will effectively prohibit government jobs from going to religious minorities. Although the bill does not specifically mention any religion, critics say that Muslim women, in particular, are the target because a hijab is far more visible from a distance than a cross necklace.

Sarah Abou-Bakr of the National Council of Canadian Muslims believes Bill 21 is “making Islamophobia legal”, viewing it in the context of repeated and racially motivated cases of harassment and violence against Muslim Quebecers. A Montreal-based women’s advocacy group said that since the bill’s introduction, they’ve received more reports of targeted harassment towards hijab-wearing women than ever before.

And then there’s the worst-case scenario: the slaughter of six worshippers after a gunman opened fire inside a Quebec City mosque in January 2017.

“If I just stay silent to any kind of oppression, big or small … it’s as if I’m saying it’s okay,” says Bakr. “And it’s not okay.”

What do you think? Should we view Quebec as they’d like to be seen: as the shining star of secularism? Is this bill a necessary step for Quebec to become the post-religion utopia of North America?

Or is this simply a secular step too far?

35 comments

  1. BERNARD ANTIN says:

    While government in a heterodox society should avoid favoring one group over another. However to exclude persons of faith from public life is an unconscionable act of discrimination contrary to the values of a free society.

    1. Lionheart says:

      No one is excluding persons of faith from public office. They are being directed in Quebec to not outwardly wear garments, or jewelry depicting religion, while serving as a public servant during their working day. What they do when they get home, or when they are attending their place of worship is up to them.

      It’s a pity that directive isn’t in place in the US.

      🦁❤️

      1. tom b says:

        Lionheart…i agree with you…government employees should not display any bias toward any religion…ultimately, how strong is a “religious” belief if it requires symbols?…Peace…Tom B

        1. Jeffrey Frye says:

          Here’s my take: the ban wearing of religious symbolism in public, generally speaking, rubs me the wrong way in so far as that a necklace could be concealed beneath a T-shirt or a ring could easily be placed in a pocket if in fact one knows a head of time that those things are going to trigger someone! A case by case type thing instead of an out right ban! As far as the head gear is concerned that’s something I need to think about more!
          Honestly I’m more of a center leftist and a libertarian at that, politically speaking of course! So yes I’m all for the separation of church and state here!
          Now to tackle the issue in the article above directly!
          Honestly I’m really on the fence on this one! I’ve never been in a public servants office before and the one time I was, it was only to file a complaint with law enforcement against a person who stole some personal items! The officer had a little piece cross pin attached to his shirt which didn’t bother me even though I am not Christian nor Jewish nor Muslim and even less so since the officer in question seemed very professional!
          The stolen item’s in question where taken from my pagan alter and all of which where returned without blemish done to them! I live in a predominantly Christian area and all those involved where very professional and acted as though they where more concerned about about doing there job assignment to them, some of which had small religious symbols on there shirts or on a ring! It was as if they where saying that so what if there religious in there private lives as long as they are able to perform there duties in a proper and professional way!
          I suppose I just outlined my entire take on this whole thing but I’m just one 35 year old American! What do I know?

      2. Lori says:

        I also agree. All belief is personal and does not need to be displayed if someone is a public servant. They’re there to do their job, not share their religious beliefs.

  2. Rev. Brien says:

    Very simple. I agree with dress codes. When you serve the public you are subject to a dress code. Religion needs to be kept in your heart and in your own home. I do not want to be represented by someone’s belief as I have my own. My rep needs to show up dressed for work, not church. If anyone serving in public office cannot separate their religious belief from public office, they should step down and simply find another way to serve other than public office.

    1. Alicia says:

      In my city, there is a Muslim employee at the Social Security office. She wears a full burqah. Nothing showing but hands and eyes. I personally don’t feel this is right. If someone is going to have all my personal information, I should be able to see who that person is.

      1. Michael says:

        You realize of course that you are, in point of fact, seeing who that person is.

  3. Kirk says:

    Though I’m Catholic and a government servant, I deliberately do not wear religious symbols because I feel it would convey government support for religion, or a bias. With all the hate for Catholics going around now, not wearing Christian symbols makes me feel safer. Same could be said of folks fearing Islamaphobia, keep your signs hidden and you’ll be less likely to be targeted. Main point again: government employees shouldn’t convey any bias.

  4. John A Anderson, CD, CIF Mons ON says:

    As someone who spent just over 20 yrs in the Canadian Forces, I actually agree with this ban. If you must wear a religious symbol openly, your faith cannot be all that strong. Me, I wore mine on my dog tags, despite them saying NRE (no religion expressed). Because the dog tags are required to be hidden, because of safety considerations when working around machinery, I could still wear the symbol, but it was not publicly visible. It was available for me to grab hold of for prayer, but because I was in uniform, my religious sentiments were not allowed to be seen. The unit padre knew, but no one else did, without my telling them. That’s been the CAF policy for at least 30 yrs. Being from a non-mainstream faith (I’m Seax), it allowed me to function without any discrimination. I recognized others of similar faith through other means (monitor wallpaper, choice of words, and knowledge of them from outside the CAF), but faith wasn’t discussed outside of private conversations.

  5. Dr. Daniel R. Thomas. Ph.D. D.D says:

    Civil Authority is established by God. It is one of the three institutions given to us by Him. Marriage and the Church being the other two. Each has its responsibilities, organization, and limitations defines for us. That type of work is a calling.

    Our moral character is based upon the principals also given to us through His Law. How we act; how we care and treat each other; and how we interact with Him are all also given to us by Him.

    We are judged by our actions, not by appearance. Which suggests that we do not need to have an outward symbol of our faith in order to have faith. Faith is the belief of things not seen.

    There was once a purge over women wearing pants in Church. “Pants were clothing only for men!” But in the beginning, there were no pants! Ah, how times change, but the hypocrisy remains the same.

    Some church’s still require ties to be worn by men if they do any kind of church work. Respect is the reason. To sell shirts that could not sell, someone put an alligator emblem on the pocket, and made millions.

    If you are troubled because of someone’s outward appearance, then you are judging with evil motives. I direct you to the Book of James.

    You need to actually live the faith you profess. And that means that you must look beyond the surface. You must peer deep into the motive. You may discover that the Laws of your society are based in religious doctrine that you were never fully aware of. How well they are used, and minuplated, reveal the true intent of their enforcers. It is not an outward sign of cloth or silver or plastic that you need to see. It is the inward action of the heart that must be exposed.

    And that is hard. It takes effort. It takes time. It takes true faith. But it is there you will find your friends, and your enemies. Not in the cloth they put on today and change tomorrow.

    1. Don says:

      “Our moral character is based upon the principals also given to us through His Law.”

      Such sophistry. Plenty of people of good moral character don’t even believe in your version of god, or any gods whatsoever.

      Ah, how times change, but the hypocrisy remains the same.

      1. Dr. Daniel R. Thomas. Ph.D. D.D says:

        You are right. A great many people do not believe in God. Many believe that this reality is but an accident. Some say that flying pasta is responsible. You put 4 people in a room and you will get 5 religions! But even with all of that being said, non-belief does not prove that God does not exist. What is certain is that there exists right and wrong. Judging by appearance does not expose motive. Regardless of Who first said it.

        As for me and my house, I choose to believe.

        1. Lionheart says:

          You are wrong Mr Thomas. You put 4 people in a room and you don’t know if any of them will be religious at all.

          You are right in that we cannot prove any god doesn’t exist just like no one can prove the Pasta god doesn’t exist, or the Loch Ness monster, or fairies.

          🦁❤️

          1. Dr. Daniel R. Thomas. Ph.D. D.D says:

            One might say that having no religion is itself a religion.

            I have been wrong before. But I will hold fast to my faith. It is my anchor. I am not ashamed of my faith. Feel free to judge me. Anyone who dares to post here must be willing to take the hits that come from doing so. I only ask that you judge righteously, justly.

            My point is that faith is not something you put on and take off at a whim. It is something deep inside of you.

            A piece of cloth, a string of beads, a shiny bit of silver is an icon, a symbol at best. By itself, it can do nothing. Either for the one who wears it, or the one who sees it worn. By itself it is harmless. Actions are what define us. What we do, how we stand by what we believe; these are the things that measure us. Fear of these symbols should not be what motivates us. Fear of the evil that man does should be.

          2. Lionheart says:

            It’s not my intention to judge you. I’ve been where you are, so if you need your faith to help you through life I don’t have any issue with that at all.

            🦁❤️

          3. Lori says:

            Dr Thomas… you’re right the symbols really don’t have any meaning other than an expression of what religion we are. So why do we need to make this public statement? There are many reason for doing so. In some cases it simply brings us comfort. In this case it could be worn beneath the clothing as a symbol of love. In other cases it’s to create division, making your stand very clear, or as a need to invoke questions, or an it can be an attempt to bring others on board. This is not necessary in the work place. That is not part of the job.

        2. Don says:

          “One might say that having no religion is itself a religion.”

          Many deceitful religious “debaters” have used such a line to try to hide the fact that their position is irrational and indefensible. Don’t be one of them. Rise above such lies.

        3. Don says:

          “…does not prove that God does not exist”

          Your screen name infers a higher education, so allow me to remind you of something you should be intimately familiar with, given your credentials.

          One cannot prove a negative. There is simply no need; a proposition or idea must be supported by evidence first.
          1st year student material, but try not to forget it.

  6. William Waugh says:

    Ok. So I agree with the supportive of ban comments; but would it not be great if all religions were openly displayed doing government business. What a wonderful world this would be. An educated and tolerate community that embraces all spiritual journeys.

    ………so wait what? ….Earth currently looks more like the Terran Empire of star trek’s “mirror” universe. … .come join us. No need to be educated and or spiritual. Just show up with your ignorance, your assault rifles and your [bat-lathe (sp). Klingon personal weapon of choice]. ……and be greeted by mindless government officials making certain they are waring nothing. “offensive” ……that might get them killed.

  7. Alicia says:

    When an Orthodox Jewish woman marries, she must cover her hair. Many wear wigs. If a Muslim woman still wants her head covered, she, too, can get a wig. Done.

  8. Dan Renfro says:

    No good

  9. Laurie G. Cleveland says:

    It’s about time that somebody had some sense. If you allow Muslims to wear hajibs and you won’t let the Christians wear their crosses or crucifixes, the Jews their Star of Davids, and the pagans their Pentacles, then it is religious discrimination. I didn’t like it in MA when the Muslim girls wore hajibs and longsleeved long dresses to school while other kids couldn’t wear symbols of their faith. This is the only fair way to do it or you allow everybody the same right.

  10. Secretary3rd says:

    My comment is for you all is to read the Qur’an where it says that you are Infidels also called pigs and apes. Should be treated as such. You are not worthy to bow toward Mecca and if you say Allah in any breath your head should come off.
    This is written in stone and can not be question by anyone including a Muslim.
    To enter Heaven it is the duty to kill another that is not of the faith.
    Those Muslims in Canada who seek Heaven must fulfill the word in the Qur’an kill the Infidels.
    Think those in Canada are not worry about Muslims.
    Think, if you meet a Muslims who wants instant entence into Heaven as he shakes your hand!

    1. Don says:

      Don’t forget to read the Bible where Jesus teaches to beat slaves and murder nonbelievers.
      Hint, they’re both in Luke.

      While it’s not written in stone, it IS in the Bible. Strange that so many Christians lie and deny it.

      1. Dr. Daniel R. Thomas. Ph.D. D.D says:

        Please cite the location in Luke as well as what translation you are referencing.

        1. Lionheart says:

          I believe he’s referencing Luke 12:47-48 for the first part.

          🦁❤️

        2. Don says:

          Nah, you can find it for yourself. Sorry if that sounds rude, but far too many Christian apologists use that “question” as bait. When answered, they cry out “parable!” or “out of context!”. Lion has the first part correct, by the way.

    2. T'Keren Valmaz says:

      Muhammad’s Promise to the Monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery Until the End of Days :

      “This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

      Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

      No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.

      Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

      No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.

      No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”

  11. Christian says:

    So, if a religion has Head Tattoos (tribal tattoos that are religious, cultural, and race based) does this mean the government will require people to cut off their tattoos with a knife ?

    It seems clothing & item related.

    Tattoos become, literally, a part of a person’s skin.

    1. Lionheart says:

      They limit their employment opportunities. Police officers that have tattoo’s on their arms in California have to wear long sleeve shirts to cover them. No tattoo’s have to be visible.

      Tattoo’s can be removed! Prison inmates can have their tattoo’s removed. Tattoo removing equipment is made available, at the taxpayers expense, at most jail/prison facilities.

      🦁♥️

    2. Don says:

      I’m reminded of the neo-Nazi in California who had a swastika tattooed on his forehead, who sued a Jewish daycare center for discrimination when they refused to hire him. It was laughed out of court.

      I imagine a similar outcome here.

  12. Lea Weisenbach says:

    You should live your faith. I wish the USA would do the same.
    I could not wear my faith symbol because when I did Christians were so rude etc. So its best no one wears any symbol at all..

  13. Eddie Merkel says:

    I am not from Quebec, though my wife is and we are there right now. I am all for governments being secular. However, I do have a problem with the government saying that people cannot freely *express* their religious views (which is what any kind of adornment is). The government can be completely secular and still allow employees to wear their religious garb.

    By not allowing members of religions for whom particular adornments are not optional, but mandatory, the government is actively discriminating against those individuals and those religions. It is important to note that Christians do not *have* to wear any adornment like Muslims, Jews, or Sikhs must wear. This new law has virtually zero impact on the Christian majority. So what does a Sikh man or Muslim woman do at this point if they have been quietly and faithfully doing their jobs in the government? If they are devout, they must look for other work. However, now the Government of Quebec has codified religious discrimination on these grounds. Is it unreasonable to expect similar bias will become more prevalent in the private sector, thereby making their job search that much more difficult?

    In my view, this is a wrong move on the part of the government of Quebec. I hope they rectify the situation quickly.

  14. Ed says:

    It shouldn’t surprise some, with the liberal leaning of the site, that they push such bull as “Legalized Islamophobia?”

    Let’s review some things: ‘famously secular Quebec has become the first Canadian province to ban the wearing of religious symbols and religious head coverings for its public servants.

    The passing of Bill 21, “An Act Respecting the Laicity of the State,” means government employees in public schools, courtrooms, and law enforcement agencies can no longer wear any religious headwear or symbols. No religious items are excepted.’

    So, a place that is “famously secular” is somehow targeting *just* Muslims? And let’s repeat the last line, because it’s obviously being missed by some who need help in reading: =No religious items are excepted.= ‘the Muslim hijab, Jewish kippah, Sikh turban, and Christian cross are all essentially banned.’ By the *author’s own admission,* there is NO targeting of Muslims. It is *equal* on all of them, so that there’s no one favored over the other…imagine that? Yet following shortly, the author seems to ignore their own admission, for what? Oh, and then: “The fact that the large cross that hung on the wall of the provincial Parliament in Quebec City for decades was finally taken down to prove Bill 21 applies equally to all religions shows how far Quebec lawmakers are willing to go to prove a point.”

    “France banned burkas and niqabs in public and even tried to restrict full-body swimsuits with head coverings (“burkinis”) on its beaches. Belgium, Austria, and Denmark also implemented full-face veil bans, encouraging neighboring European countries to consider the same.” No, this isn’t a religious target. It’s similar to, say China, and even the US, who wants to target and keep track of each and every one of their people, at all time? You came about it in a botched way, but you’ve just helped to illustrate that the governments want to implement a full nanny/police state (depending on your POV), so that they know where we all are, and what we’re all doing. You just made the skewed thinking that it’s anti-religion, when it’s actually anti-freedom.

    And can you all stop being so ignorant? Muslims are a religion. They are NOT a race, unless you happen to be an ignorant racist? White, blacks, and everyone in between have been Muslims! To lump all Muslims as “brown people,” even to push a narrative, sounds rather racist!

    Oh, and with countless slaughters of entire villages around the world, which the globalist LameStream Media ignores, Christians are the most persecuted: https://aleteia.org/2019/05/06/christians-are-most-persecuted-group-in-the-world-study-says/

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