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Quebec in Canada Considers Ban on Face Veils in Public Sector, in a move criticised as Marginalising Muslim Women

The proposed law prohibits anyone giving or receiving government services, such as a provincial government-issued health card, from wearing face-covering garments

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FILE - A demonstrator adds a Quebec flag to her veil during a protest against Quebec's proposed Charter of Values in Montreal, Sept. 14, 2013. Thousands took to the streets to denounce the province's proposed bill to ban the wearing of any overt religious clothing by government-paid employees or people seeking government services.VOA
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Montreal, October 20, 2016: Quebec is moving ahead with a law to ban face coverings in the public sector in a move criticised as marginalising Muslim women and potentially inflaming anti-immigrant tensions in the mainly French-speaking Canadian province.

The proposed law prohibits anyone giving or receiving government services, such as a provincial government-issued health card, from wearing face-covering garments. As an example, it would prevent a woman from donning the face-concealing burqa while trying to get a Quebec driver’s license and prohibit a civil servant from covering her face.

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The Quebec government is holding hearings before a vote on the legislation, which is likely to pass because of the centrist Liberal party’s majority in the legislature.

Quebec says the law is aimed at ensuring the religious neutrality of the state. Critics say a law is not required and only affects a small number of Muslim women who wear burqas or niqabs.

“It’s an unnecessary exercise,” said Amira Elghawaby, a spokeswoman for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, adding it could “isolate and victimise women who wear the face veil.”

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Like France, Quebec has struggled at times to reconcile its secular identity with a rising Muslim population, many of them North African immigrants. The face covering, or niqab, became a big issue in last year’s national Canadian elections, especially in Quebec, where the vast majority of the population supported a ban on them at citizenship ceremonies.

France in 2004 passed a hotly contested ban on veils, crosses and other religious symbols in schools, which appeared to be a model for Quebec’s “Charter of Values” that the previous provincial government tried to introduce in 2013.

Quebec’s justice minister has said the law is not an attack on Muslim women and “respects individual choices.”

“Our approach in this file would be balanced and respectful of greater principles such as gender equality and the recognition of rights and fundamental freedoms,” said Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee.

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The latest legislation, Bill 62, is a watered-down version of that charter, and opposition lawmakers say it does not go far enough.

Parti Quebecois legislator Agnes Maltais said Bill 62 fails to include services provided by municipalities, a key point of contact between civil servants and the public. Maltais said the law should be amended to prevent all state workers in positions of authority such as judges and prison guards from wearing religious symbols. (VOA)

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Muslim women can now travel for Haj without Mahram

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1300 applicants after the new rule came in. Wikimedia commons
1300 applicants after the new rule came in. Wikimedia commons

In India, earlier it was mandatory for Muslim women to travel with mahram if they wanted to go for Haj. However, now Muslim women aged above 45 will now be allowed to go for the pilgrimage without ‘mahram’ in a group of at least four.

“1300 Muslim women have applied to perform Haj without ‘mahram’ and women from different parts of the country from Kerala to north India, have expressed their wish to go for the Haj pilgrimage,” said PM Modi on Mann Ki Baat.

A five-member panel

Earlier too, Centre had recommended women above 45 years to embark on haj pilgrimage in a four-member group without a male relative.

A committee was formed by Union ministry of minority affairs to review the existing haj policy and suggest a framework for new rules for 2018-22. It listed several recommendations which included permitting women to go for the pilgrimage without a male relative.

1.4 lakh people from India participate in Haj every year. Pixabay
1.4 lakh people from India participate in Haj every year. Pixabay

Controversy

In his last Mann Ki Baat address of the year on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to Muslim women, highlighting his government’s attempt at facilitating women’s travel for Haj pilgrimage without a male companion.

“For decades, injustice was being done to Muslim women but there was no discussion on it. Even in many Islamic countries, this practice does not exist,” the PM said.

“Our Ministry of Minority Affairs issued corrective measures and we eased this restriction by phasing out a tradition that had been in practice for the past 70 years,” Mr. Modi pointed out.

However, many claims that these rules are made by Saudi Arabia, not the Indian Government.

“It is the Saudi Haj authorities that have allowed any Muslim women above 45 years from any country without a Mehram to do Haj. It does not behoove the PM to take credit for what a foreign govt has done,” said AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.

Saudi Arabia had updated the rules on haj back in 2015, as their embassy website shows.