Job or hijab? Singapore debates ban on Islamic veil at work

Contrast between Sikh wearing turbans (male) and prohibiting Muslims wearing hijabs (women) striking:

Every day before she starts her shift at a government hospital in Singapore, Farah removes her hijab – the Islamic veil she has worn since a teenager.

Although minority Muslim women can freely wear the hijab in most settings in Singapore, some professions bar the headscarf and a recent case has triggered fresh debate on diversity and discrimination in the workplace.

Now Farah has joined a growing number of Muslims who account for about 15 per cent of Singapore’s 4 million resident population calling for the ban to end, with an online petition gathering more than 50,000 signatures.

“They told me I can’t work here if I wear the tudung,” said Farah, using the local Malay term for hijab, as she recounts her job interview two years ago for a physiotherapist position.

“I felt a sense of helplessness, it’s unfair. Why has the tudung become a barrier for us to look for jobs?” asked the 27-year-old, who used a pseudonym for fear of reprisals at work.

She accepted the job eventually but has to remove her headscarf whenever she is at work.

Farah’s case is not an oddity.

There was outcry last month when a woman was asked to remove her hijab to work as a promoter at a local department store.

Halimah Yacob, the country’s first female president who herself wears the hijab, said there is “no place” for discrimination when asked her view of the case.

The store reversed its policy, but many took to social media pointing out restrictions remain on wearing the hijab for some civil servants, including policewomen and nurses.

Livelihood

The debate surrounding the hijab is not new in Singapore, a modern city-state which takes pride in its multicultural and multiracial background. The country is predominantly ethnic Chinese, many of whom follow Buddhism or Christianity.

In 2013, then Muslim affairs minister Yaacob Ibrahim said wearing a hijab at the workplace would be “very problematic” for some professions that require a uniform.

The following year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the hijab issue was about “what sort of society do we want to build in Singapore”, according to local media reports.

Singapore’s police force and the health ministry did not respond to repeated requests seeking comment.

Referring to the department store case, Singapore’s president said discrimination in the workplace was “disturbing” as it deprives a person from earning a living.

“People should be assessed solely on their merits and their ability to do a job and nothing else,” Halimah wrote on her Facebook, which attracted more than 500 comments.

“During this Covid-19 period when concerns over jobs and livelihoods are greater, incidents of discrimination exacerbate anxieties and people feel threatened,” she added.

Divided

The hijab has been a divisive issue for Muslims worldwide.

Many Muslim women cover their heads in public as a sign of modesty, although others see it as a sign of female oppression and in West Asian women face jail for eschewing it.

In Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province, women without a headscarf have been censured. In Malaysia, Islamic authorities have probed a book about Muslim women who refuse to wear the hijab.

But women’s rights campaigners in Singapore say they want Muslim women to have freedom of choice.

Such restrictions have hindered women’s job prospects, especially when the coronavirus pandemic has pushed Singapore into recession and companies are laying off, they say.

“Women should be able to practise their religion freely without having to choose between having a job or to practise their religion,” said Filzah Sumartono, a writer who helps run Beyond the Hijab, a website focused on Singapore Muslim women.

“This issue in Singapore is only being faced by Muslim women, it’s a strong discriminatory policy against Muslim women,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Identity

Others urge consistency, noting that the turban – headgear worn by Sikh men – is allowed at work in Singapore.

“Why the double standard,” asked Nur, a Muslim law student who signed the petition posted online in June. She requested not to use her full name to protect her privacy.

The 22-year-old said her mother and sister, who work as a nurse and in a private security company respectively, are both banned from wearing a headscarf at work.

She called on officials to explain the restrictions, saying countries such as Britain or Australia have changed tack, with disposable hijabs for nurses to address any hygiene concerns.

“I accept that racial harmony is very fragile, but it’s not just acknowledging these differences exist and live with them. It’s much more than that,” said Nur, a co-founder of Lepak Conversations, an online group.

“It’s about knowing these differences exist, accepting them and embracing these differences.” Filzah of the Beyond the Hijab group said the restrictions can make it more difficult for women to enter the workforce.

“Some women don’t feel comfortable removing a part of their identity just to be able to earn money,” she said.

Source: Job or hijab? Singapore debates ban on Islamic veil at work

Quebec judge who asked woman to remove hijab apologizes, 5 years later

Of note:

A Quebec court judge, who refused to hear the case of a Montreal woman because she was wearing a hijab, has finally apologized for the incident, more than five years after it happened.

At an online hearing of the Quebec Council of the Magistrature on Tuesday, a lawyer for the council read Judge Eliana Marengo’s apology to Rania El-Alloul.

The council is the body responsible for disciplining judges in the province.

In her statement, Marengo said she acknowledged that she erred in asking El-Alloul to remove her hijab, that she regretted any inconvenience and that she never intended any offence or disrespect.

Marengo addressed the fact that at the time she had compared El-Alloul’s hijab to a hat and sunglasses being worn in the courtroom.

“My reference to hats and sunglasses was simply meant to exemplify how the rules of decorum are generally applied in the courtroom and was most certainly not meant to disrespect either you or your beliefs,” Marengo said.

She concluded by offering El-Alloul her most sincere apologies.

El-Alloul read her own statement in response, saying she accepted Marengo’s apology.

“I remember that day in the courtroom like it was yesterday. I couldn’t imagine that I would be turned away from the justice system because of my hijab, that my rights would be taken away because of my beliefs,” El-Alloul said.

“I hope she understands the pain she caused me, and why it is so important for her to account for her actions. Our justice system is not made for some and not others. No, this is a democracy, where everyone is to be treated equally before the law,” she continued.

“I accept her apology. This is what my faith teaches me.”

‘Not suitably dressed’

The controversy dates back to February 2015 when El-Alloul was in court trying to get back her impounded car.

“In my opinion, you are not suitably dressed,” Marengo told El-Alloul at the time. The judge said the court was a secular space, and no religious symbols should be worn by those before it.

The case was suspended, and El-Alloul eventually got her car back. But the story made headlines around the world.

Dozens of people, including El-Alloul, ultimately filed complaints with the Council of the Magistrature.

El-Alloul’s complaint was dismissed on a technicality, but the council agreed to look into the dozens of other complaints on the matter.

Marengo challenged the authority of the council to examine the complaints. She sought leave to appeal a Quebec Court of Appeal decision that unanimously found she was wrong to bar El-Alloul from her courtroom.

But in 2018, the Supreme Court refused to hear Marengo’s challenge.

Change of heart

The Council of the Magistrature sent a letter earlier this summer to the complainants, informing them of today’s hearing.

“The purpose of this hearing will be to study a settlement proposal from the prosecutors on file, including a letter of apology from Judge Marengo to Mrs. El-Alloul,” the letter said.

The council also told the complainants the apology would be released to the public, in exchange for dropping the disciplinary charges against Marengo.

The settlement was jointly proposed by Marengo’s lawyers and the lawyer handling the complaint for the council.

The panel of judges presiding over the hearing said it would take time to consider today’s arguments before deciding whether to accept the settlement.

Source: Quebec judge who asked woman to remove hijab apologizes, 5 years later

Judge who told woman to remove hijab offering to apologize in settlement proposal

Hard to see that this apology is genuine or just an effort to avoid discipline given how long Judge Marengo has been fighting this:

A Quebec court judge who refused to hold a hearing for a Montreal woman after the woman refused to remove her hijab now says she’s willing to apologize for the incident, more than five years after it happened.

In February 2015, Judge Eliana Marengo refused to hear the case of Rania El-Alloul.

El-Alloul was in court trying to get her impounded car back.

“In my opinion, you are not suitably dressed,” Marengo told El-Alloul at the time. The judge said the court was a secular space, and no religious symbols should be worn by those before it.

Marengo compared the hijab to a hat and sunglasses, saying she wouldn’t hear a case from someone wearing those, either.

After the incident, dozens of people filed complaints with the Quebec Council of the Magistrature, the body responsible for disciplining judges in the province.

In a letter sent recently to the complainants, the council said it would convene a hearing Sept. 8.

“The purpose of this hearing will be to study a settlement proposal from the prosecutors on file, including a letter of apology from Judge Marengo to Mrs. El-Alloul,” the letter said.

The letter also said the apology would be released to the public, in exchange for the dropping of the disciplinary complaints against Marengo.

Council spokesperson Paul Crépeau told CBC News the settlement is being jointly proposed by Marengo’s lawyers and the lawyer handling the complaint for the council.

Long legal fight

Marengo has been fighting the disciplinary complaint in court for years, at one point challenging the authority of the council to even hear the complaint.

Judge Eliana Marengo’s lawyers are now proposing a compromise where Marengo would write a letter of apology to El-Alloul.(Radio-Canada)

After a request from the legal team assisting El-Alloul, the Quebec Court of Appeal in 2018 issued a judgment reaffirming that the Quebec court dress code does not forbid head scarves if they constitute a sincere religious belief and don’t harm the public interest.

El-Alloul herself filed a formal complaint with the council after the incident, but it was rejected because of a technicality.

However, dozens of other complaints were accepted, and the council convened a special panel of five judges to consider the case.

El-Alloul declined to comment on the latest developments.

Source: Judge who told woman to remove hijab offering to apologize in settlement proposal

Australia: Liberal politician accuses first female Muslim MP of thinking ‘her diversity is better than others’

Sigh:

A debate in the House of Representatives on the importance of multiculturalism in Australia turned sour on Thursday after Assistant Defence Minister Alex Hawke attacked Labor MP Anne Aly for thinking her diversity is “something better than other people’s diversity”.

Egyptian-born Dr Aly was the first Muslim woman to be elected to Federal Parliament after she won the West Australian seat of Cowan in 2016.

The controversial comments came after Dr Aly disputed claims by Mr Hawke that “most” of the politicians in the room were either born overseas or had a parent that was, as part of a speech on the success of multiculturalism in Australia.

“When the member opposite likes to cite her diversity as something better than other people’s diversity she ignores reality,” he said, resulting in shouts of “shame” from Labor MPs.

“The member for Cowan should reflect that people have come from all parts of the world to Australia, over many years. Just because you’re a migrant from one country doesn’t make you better than another.”

Mr Hawke, the Member for Mitchell, was responding to calls by Labor MP Andrew Giles for urgent action from politicians on the rise of racism and anti-Semitism in Australia.

Citing the attack of a heavily pregnant Muslim woman in Parramatta in November last year, he said Australia was “witnessing a creeping normalisation of hate”.

“Let me be clear: the vast majority of Australians abhor racism, but we need national leadership, setting the standard and leading by example. This has been sadly missing in this place,” Mr Giles said.

Mr Hawke defended the comments on Friday morning, accusing Labor of “feigning outrage and falsely claiming racism” in order to shut down debate.

“Labor under Anthony Albanese appears fixated on identity politics and appears constantly triggered by anything and everything,” he said in a statement to SBS News.

“Every MP has the right to engage in robust debate – certainly Labor members did in this discussion.”

Mr Hawke clarified that he was trying to make the point that Labor was misrepresenting the reality of multiculturalism in Australia, which he said is a “free, fair and tolerant place and the greatest multicultural success story in the world”.

“This constant erosion of debate threatens our freedom,” he said.

During the 2019 federal election, Ms Aly was the target of “racist” flyers which used her full Egyptian name, Azza Mahmoud Fawzi Hosseini Ali el Serougi, and accused her of proposing “blasphemy” laws to ban any criticism of Islam.

Dr Aly’s office has been contacted for comment.

Source: Liberal politician accuses first female Muslim MP of thinking ‘her diversity is better than others’

‘Islamic Republic on the move’: Charlie Hebdo mocks Macron in Muslim veil row

Yet another manifestation of France continuing debates over the hijab, one unfortunately that has crossed to Quebec and its Bill 21:
French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has weighed in on the Muslim veil controversy, recently reignited by President Emmanuel Macron, by publishing a caricature of him ignoring the alleged Islamization of the French society.

The cartoon – relatively innocent by the standards of the weekly – features a row of sad-looking women, donning Muslim veils, with Macron in front stating: “That’s not my business.” The picture is dubbed “Islamic republic on the move,” in a clear nod to the president’s party – Republic on the Move.

View image on Twitter
Not uncommon for Charlie Hebdo pieces, the cartoon sparked a fierce debate. Many accused the magazine of “drifting to Fascism” and producing quality content for the “far right.” Others, however, lauded the magazine’s ability to exercise the “free speech” and to stick to the traditions of the political caricature.

Muslim veil row reignited

The cartoon refers to the debate on the Muslim veil, an issue raging in France for years. The controversy made fresh headlines on October 11, when a headscarf-clad Muslim woman showed up at the regional parliament in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, accompanying her son’s class during a field trip. The woman was confronted by a politician from Marine Le Pen’s right-wing National Rally, Julien Odoul, who demanded she remove her veil.

The woman’s outfit, Odoul claimed, was a deliberate “provocation” that cannot be tolerated in wake of the recent stabbing of four French policemen. The woman, identified as Fatima E., has filed a complaint over Odoul’s attack since the incident, which she said left the class distressed and traumatized.

While full-face Muslim garments – as well as other kinds of masks – are banned in public spaces in France, headscarves are fine to wear. Still, they are prohibited in public schools “in the spirit of secularism,” alongside with other explicitly religious accessories, such as Jewish kippahs and large Christian crosses. Yet, there’s no law in France that forbids women from wearing headscarves – or anything else they please – during the field trips of their children.

Ambiguous stance of the Elysee

As the France-wide scandal grew, with some calling for a full veil ban while other urged the Elysee to protect the country’s “secularism,” Macron weighed in on the issue, warning against “stigmatizing”Muslims or somehow linking Islam with terrorism. “There is a lot of irresponsibility among political commentators… Communalism is not terrorism.”

But on October 24 he managed to reignite the veil row, stating issue was not “his business” altogether – or at least that’s what was ripped out of context and widely publicized by the French media, including Charlie Hebdo.

“Wearing of headscarf in public spaces is not my business, however, in public services, at school and while educating children, headscarf issue is my business. That is what secularism is about,” Macron said, adding that in certain neighborhoods in France, “some people use the headscarf as a symbol to break one’s connection with the republic.”

Macron’s statement seems to have left virtually everyone dissatisfied. Some said it was the first time in the history of the Republic that its leader said a public matter was not the state’s business, while others said the country needs a strong president, not Pontius Pilate. Macron’s stance on the veil issue was itself met with a mixed reaction, as some found his statement too weak and pandering to the Muslim community, while others, on the contrary, believed it to be ‘Islamophobic’ in essence.

Source: ‘Islamic Republic on the move’: Charlie Hebdo mocks Macron in Muslim veil row

New row erupts over the wearing of the Islamic hijab in public in France

Sigh… Hopefully Quebec politicians won’t pick up on this, applying a ban to mothers on school field trips:

The debate around women wearing the Islamic headscarf has divided French politicians again, with France’s right wing Senate leader Gérard Larcher calling for President Emmanuel Macron to revise the law when it comes to religious neutrality in schools.

“It’s without a doubt a difficult subject,” Larcher said in an interview with France 2 Televisionon Tuesday night.

“But it is an essential subject, and we expect the President to federate and to make people of Muslim origin and religion feel just as much as part of the Republic as atheists, Catholics and Jews,” he said.

A bill sponsored by Les Republicans on maintaining religious neutrality within staff in the public school sector is up for a vote in the Senate, as early as next week.

“There is a need to discuss neutrality in public schools, without hate, without weakness. The subject has not been dealt with sufficiently,” he stressed.

During question time on Tuesday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe addressed the National Assembly, rejecting accusations that the government had an ambiguous stance when it came to religion in schools.

Philippe said the government preferred to focus on avoiding radicalisation, and school absence because of religious community pressure.

He was attempting to head off a new controversy over the question of secularism and whether or not to allow mothers wearing the Islamic headscarf to accompany their children’s classes on school outings.

Ruling party divided on issue

The French state and church were officially separated by law in 1905 to give form to the concept of secularism rooted in the 1789 French Revolution.

In 2004, the government prohibited the wearing of conspicuous religions symbols in public schools and banned the hijab, a garment that covers a woman’s hair but leaves her face exposed, from classrooms and government offices.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer stressed on Sunday that “the law does not prohibit women wearing headscarves to accompany children”, referring to a state council ruling from 2013.

But he also indicated that “the headscarf itself is not desirable in our society” because of “what it says about the status of women, what it says about our values.”

Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye also weighed in, saying it was important to allow space for exchanges between women who wear headscarves and those who do not, as this promoted “inclusivity”.

Minister suggests Islamist provocation

Two incidents in the past week have lead to a further revival of this debate.

Last Friday, far-right National Rally (RN) minister Julien Odoul provoked widespread outrage when he posted a video on Twitter of him confronting a woman who accompanied pupils last Friday to the regional parliament in Bourgogne-Franche-Comte in eastern France.

Citing “secular principles” in the wake of the killings in Paris this month of four police staff by a radicalised convert to Islam, he insisted the woman, whose son was among the group, remove her headscarf.

Members of the RN then walked out of the chamber before issuing a press statement denouncing “an Islamist provocation”.

Fatima E., speaking to the press for the first time since the incident told France Info on Tuesday that she thought it was a joke until she saw how the students were reacting.

“They were really shocked and traumatised,” she said, and even though she didn’t want to give in, she eventually realized it was better if she left the room, only to be confronted in the corridor by another former member of the National Rally party.

“I was shaking from head to toe,” she said, going on to say that she now has a bad opinion of “what is called the Republic”.

Regional parliament speaker Marie-Guite Dufay, criticised Odoul’s actions, saying neither the law of the country nor the rules of the chamber prohibited a member of the public wearing a headscarf.

Dufay denounced a “surge of hatred” and what she described as “undignified behaviour” on the part of a lawmaker.

Fire station refuses school visit

Then on Monday, a visit by a group of school students to the main fire station in Creil, north of Paris, was cancelled outright because two of the mothers accompanying the group were wearing an Islamic hijab.

The director of Regional Fire and rescue service (SDIS) said it was a simple case of misinterpretation on behalf of the fire station chief and that it was regrettable that it had happened.

“The women were wearing a simple headscarf, known as hijab,” Eric de Valroger President of the SDIS told AFP.

“I think the chief was just trying to do his job, and apply the law,” he went on.

One of the women made a complaint to the fire service, saying she was “shocked” over their refusal to allow her to enter the building.

Valroger, who is also the vice-president of the Republicans party in the Val d’Oise region later said the woman had since spoken to the fire station chief and he had apologized and things had calmed down.

Source: New row erupts over the wearing of the Islamic hijab in public in France

German conference on Islamic veil sparks controversy

All depends on the range of speakers and views that are being expressed, along with how they are expressed:

Islamic veils and headscarves remain the subject of heated public debate in Germany. Some view them as part and parcel of religious freedom; others as a symbol of women’s oppression in Islam. The German court system has already taken up the issue of whether school teachers should be banned from wearing a partial headscarf or full veil — or any other openly religious symbols — in class. To complicate matters further, not all of Germany’s 16 states see eye-to-eye on the matter, which is gaining in visibility due to the country’s changing demographics.

Germany’s Muslim population, which has rapidly increased in recent years due to immigration from Muslim-majority countries, was estimated at between 4.4 and 4.7 million people or approximately 5.5% of the country’s total population in 2015, according to the Federal Statistical Office. The number is doubtless higher now, according to the agency, but updated official figures exist.

With these demographic changes come societal debates — one of which, that of the Islamic veil, has been a continual source of discussion. The latest veil controversy, which made headlines all across Germany, has occurred over a planned academic conference — something that even its organizer did not expect.

Academic accused of peddling ‘anti-Muslim sentiments’

Professor Susanne Schröter, who has been researching Islam in Europe at Frankfurt University since 2008, has planned a conference titled “The Islamic veil – Symbol of dignity or oppression?” for May 8. A small group of students has criticized the conference, accusing her of wanting to spread Islamophobic sentiment and calling for her resignation.

Zuher Jazmati, a member of the “Uni gegen antimuslimischen Rassismus” (“University against anti-Muslim racism”) initiative told DW: “We do not believe a value judgment ought to be made on whether or not someone wears a veil. Making such a judgment is annoying for and a burden on any woman wearing one.” Jazmati believes that such discussions even encourage violence against Muslim women.

He also opposes several of the invited conference speakers. Jazmati takes issue with the attendance of German journalist Alice Schwarzer, who publishes Emma, a feminist magazine. He also opposes Islam critic Necla Kelek, whom he accuses of having expressed highly contentious statements in the past and of perpetuating a racist discourse. “When we discuss this topic we should do so with women in attendance who wear a veil so they can speak for themselves,” Jazmati underlines.

‘Just a regular conference’

Schröter is adamant that the event will go ahead as planned. She told dpa press agency: “I assumed that this would be just a regular conference that would not stir controversy. After all, we have been discussing the Islamic veil for nearly 20 years now.” While she said the Islamic veil had indeed become a hotly debated topic, she underlined that the conference had been planned merely to contextualize the controversial “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” exhibition at Frankfurt’s Museum of Applied Arts. The professor noted that proponents of the veil, like theologian and Quranic expert Dina El-Omari, who herself wears the covering, have been also been invited to the conference.

Still, Schröter is known for her critical view of Islamic veils. In August last year while attending a conference of the nonprofit women’s rights organization Terre des Femmes, she reportedly stated that the covering impedes women’s freedom and is often “tied to a whole bundle of restrictions.”

In early April this year, she published an article in German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung titled “What does God have against showing hair? Those who favor Islamic fashion should be aware of its repressive nature.”

Freedom of speech under threat?

Meanwhile, the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers (DHV) warned that freedom of speech was under threat at German universities. “Dissenting opinions must be respected and tolerated,” insisted DHV president Bernhard Kempen. Differences of opinion must be resolved through debate and not by boycotting, bashing, mobbing or violence, he stressed.

Birgitta Wolff, the president of Frankfurt University, has backed Schröter, stressing that it is part of her job as professor to organize academic conferences at which differing opinions are voiced.

German advertising has increasingly oriented itself toward the Muslim market segment, as shown in this gummy candy ad

Schröter says that universities should be about freedom of speech and a plurality of opinions: “Universities are a place for discussions, not a place where small lobby groups decide what can and cannot be said.” In an interview with German daily Die Welt, Schröter said critics have tried to “intimidate” and “defame” her, and that they were attacking the principle of free speech, adding that they were accusing her of “anti-Muslim racism” because they reject all criticism of Islam.

At present, it looks unlikely an amicable solution to the conference dispute will be found. Jazmati says that the list of invited speakers means neither he nor other members of his organization will attend the event, though he says he will look at conference excerpts released afterwards to see if the things his organization expected did happen. So far, there has been no direct communication between Schröter and the group Jazmati represents.

Source: German conference on Islamic veil sparks controversy

Do Republicans Believe in Religious Liberty for Muslims?

Agree, this is a test:

Donald Trump and his GOP talk and talk about their love of “religious liberty.” In May, there was Trump declaring that religious freedom is a “priority” of his administration.  And in July, Trump’s Department of Justice even announced the formation of a religious liberty task force.

Well, if Trump and the GOP truly believe that religious liberty is not just for Christians, then here’s a no-brainer for them. The Republicans in the House should unanimously support a recently proposed rule to ensure religious liberty for a soon-to-be-sworn-in Muslim member of Congress and push back against the anti-Muslim voices in their party when they attack this change—which, if history is any guide, they will!

Come January 3, 2019, Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN) will be the first Muslim member of Congress ever to wear a hijab (head scarf). The problem is that a House rule enacted in 1837 bans any type of headwear, which would include Omar’s headscarf.

In response, Democratic House leader and expected next speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has formally proposed to ditch this 181-year-old ban on headwear in order to “ensure religious expression.” As Pelosi explained to NBC News, “After voters elected the most diverse Congress in history, clarifying the antiquated rule banning headwear will further show the remarkable progress we have made as a nation.”

This rule, while on the books, doesn’t seem to have been enforced. As AshLee Strong, the spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, explained in an email, “Under both Republican and Democratic Speakers, the House has never prohibited any kind of religious headwear.” That’s great to hear. But forgive me if I’m not quite reassured.

“In Minnesota, Republican activists this year pushed a resolution to prevent Muslims from even being a part of the GOP.”

So now, Pelosi and the Democrats want to take it one step further and go beyond ignoring a rule and instead affirmatively make it clear that they support religious freedom for all Americans. And Omar herself took to Twitter to celebrate the proposed change, writing, “No one puts a scarf on my head but me. It’s my choice—one protected by the first amendment.”

She added, “And this is not the last ban I’m going to work to lift.” Omar, a Somali refugee who would literally not be permitted to enter the United States today because of Trump’s current Muslim ban, clearly has her sights set on changing that Trump policy.

So why would GOP House members not support embracing religious liberty for Muslims? I suppose they still might in this case—we’ll see how they react when the next Congress starts. But the fact is that Republicans have a recent track record of being outraged over Muslims receiving equal treatment in this country. To many of them, we don’t deserve the same religious accommodations that Christians are afforded, and some don’t believe we belong in American politics—or even in America for that matter.

For example, several years ago the University of Michigan installed a number of foot-washing stations so that Muslims there could wash themselves before praying. (This washing ritual is called wudu and is intended to purify a person before prayer.)

The response by former GOP presidential candidate and Fox News staple Mike Huckabee summed up what we heard from others on the right as he vocally objected, saying, “the accommodation we’re making to one religion at the expense of others is very un-American.”

In Tennessee, GOP state legislators freaked out when they saw in their state capitol what they thought was a new sink installed to allow visiting Muslims to wash before prayers. These Bible Belt Republicans, though, were relived to find out the large sink was installed for washing mops, not Muslims.

And this year we saw two examples of Republican elected officials trying to prevent religious freedom for non-Christians. In South Dakota, a GOP state senator publicly objected to interfaith dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians who had come to the state capitol to meet with their elected official because in his view, “Interfaith dialogue is a part of a war… of taking away the Christian fabric of our nation.”

And in Oklahoma, each session of the state legislature opens with a prayer by the “chaplain of the day.” Well a conservative Christian GOP state representative recently took over administering that program and changed the rules to so that only a Christian cleric would be eligible to deliver that opening invocation.

So much for religious liberty for non-Christians. And sadly, often when we hear the phrase religious liberty uttered by a conservative Republican, it’s not just to deny it to other faiths, but worse, it’s used to demonize or discriminate against the LGBT community.

So here’s a chance for the GOP to champion religious liberty in the best of ways. Not only should every Republican in the House vote for this proposed change; they should speak out publicly in favor it and push back against the extreme voices in their party who no doubt will declare sharia law has taken over the Congress. Expect these extremists to say things like, “Next, Muslims won’t want bacon served in the congressional lunchroom!” (Putting aside religion, turkey bacon is much better for you!)

Sadly, I doubt the GOP will do the right thing. Look what we are seeing now in Texas as Republicans are trying to remove a Muslim American from a leadership position in their own party because some there allege, without a shred of proof,  that he wants to impose Islamic law.

In Minnesota, Omar’s home state, Republican activists this year pushed a resolution to prevent Muslims from even being a part of the GOP, with two Republican elected officials claiming that Muslims are trying to “infiltrate” their party. But none of this is surprising given that the leader of the GOP is Trump, the most anti-Muslim president our nation has ever seen.

But with that said, here’s an opportunity for the GOP to evolve. Will they finally embrace an America for all faiths and push back against voices of intolerance within their own ranks? We will know soon enough.

Source: Do Republicans Believe in Religious Liberty for Muslims?

Quebec’s top court rules woman wearing hijab was entitled to have case heard

Ironic that this decision (a correct one) comes just as the incoming CAQ government has confirmed its party platform prohibiting religious symbols on public servants in positions of authority.

Different issues, of course, but both are symbolic of the ongoing identity/secularism debates:

Quebec’s highest court has ruled a woman who was denied justice three years ago after a judge ordered her to remove her hijab was entitled to be heard by the court.

The unanimous judgment rendered today in favour of Rania El-Alloul says the Quebec court dress code does not forbid head scarves if they constitute a sincere religious belief and don’t harm the public interest.

In 2015, Judge Eliana Marengo refused to hear a case involving El-Alloul’s impounded car because El-Alloul refused to remove her Islamic head scarf in the courtroom.

Marengo told her at the time that decorum was important and, in her opinion, El-Alloul wasn’t suitably dressed.

El-Alloul’s lawyers had appealed the Quebec Superior Court’s 2016 decision refusing to declare that she had the right to be heard by the court despite her attire.

Today’s judgment by the Quebec Court of Appeal quashes the original judgment by the trial judge and sets aside the Superior Court judgment that denied relief.

Julius Grey, one of El-Alloul’s lawyers, says he’s pleased with the ruling that puts both issues to rest.

Source: Quebec’s top court rules woman wearing hijab was entitled to have case heard

Un élu presse le SPVM (Montreal police) d’intégrer le hijab et le turban

Other police services have managed to do so:

Le Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) doit autoriser ses agents à porter le hijab ou le turban, réclame un élu montréalais. Le conseiller Marvin Rotrand estime que le silence du corps policier sur ces accessoires religieux représente une barrière invisible pour les communautés culturelles.

Marvin Rotrand a récemment écrit à la responsable de la sécurité publique de Montréal, Nathalie Goulet, afin de réclamer l’intégration du hijab et du turban dans l’uniforme réglementaire du SPVM. «Ça envoie un message positif aux communautés : “Vous êtes les bienvenus. Si vous avez les qualifications, vous réussissez les tests, personne ne va s’opposer à votre candidature”», écrit M. Rotrand dans la lettre obtenue par La Presse.

Démarche en 2016

Ce n’est pas la première fois que l’élu presse le SPVM d’inscrire noir sur blanc que ces signes religieux soient acceptés dans l’uniforme des agents. En 2016, le corps policier lui avait répondu ne pas avoir «de politique précise en lien avec le port d’un hijab, ni un modèle d’approuvé». «Toutefois, nous restons ouverts à évaluer toute éventuelle demande à ce sujet.»

La Presse a tenté de savoir si le SPVM avait mis à jour ses politiques depuis deux ans, mais nous n’avons pas reçu de réponse à ce jour.

Marvin Rotrand estime que le SPVM fait fausse route en attendant de recevoir des demandes pour modifier ses règles. Le simple fait de ne pas intégrer le hijab représente une barrière invisible, selon lui.

«La communauté musulmane ne devrait pas avoir à le demander. On devrait le modifier avant. Ça ne devrait pas reposer sur les épaules des minorités de demander un traitement équitable.»

Plusieurs corps policiers ont déjà modifié leurs règles vestimentaires pour autoriser le hijab et le turban, dont Toronto et Edmonton. La Gendarmerie royale du Canada (GRC) a intégré le turban en novembre 1990 et le hijab en janvier 2016.

En fait, la police montée fournit même des hijabs et des turbans qui ont été approuvés. Ceux-ci ont fait l’objet d’essais pour s’assurer qu’ils ne nuisent pas au travail des agents. «Les essais ont démontré que le port du hijab et du turban ne nuit pas à l’efficacité des membres dans l’exercice de leurs fonctions», indique la sergente Marie Damian, porte-parole de la GRC.

Autorisation et déclaration

À noter, les policiers qui veulent être exemptés du port du chapeau traditionnel de feutre de la GRC doivent obtenir une autorisation et faire une déclaration de croyance religieuse. Depuis 2013, seulement onze policiers ont porté le turban et une seule policière a demandé à porter le hijab.

«Je m’explique mal comment d’autres corps policiers canadiens ont su adapter leurs exigences en matière d’uniforme afin de faciliter l’intégration des femmes musulmanes dans leurs rangs alors que la Ville de Montréal n’a toujours pas agi en ce sens», se désole M. Rotrand.

Selon lui, le SPVM se prive de candidats de qualité. Il estime par exemple que le corps policier n’aurait jamais recruté Harjit Singh Sajjan, l’actuel ministre de la Défense, qui a servi au sein de la police de Vancouver et en Afghanistan au sein des Forces armées.

via Un élu presse le SPVM d’intégrer le hijab et le turban | Pierre-André Normandin | Grand Montréal