Let me start by doing a brief explaining of what this issue is about. I live in Canada, in Quebec to be precise.
After six months of strike against the raise of school fees, my country has elected a woman named Pauline Marois and her political party called Parti Québecois to be in charge of this province in which many people of different religious beliefs (including an expanding number of Muslims) live. Have any of you ever heard of how France has banned Muslim women from wearing their hijab when they go to school? Well, our prime minister wants to do the same thing here.
She has mentioned it several times since she has been elected and all of us hoped that she would change her mind. Sadly, a year later she and her party did not. The new version of our national charter has been published a few days ago and it’s currently stirring a lot of controversy.
Before it was published, a mosque in Saguenay (a city in Quebec) has been vandalized with pork blood. Everyone knows that we Muslims do not eat pork, so the fact that someone even dared to commit such a disrespectful gesture shows how unwelcome we are here.
This act has made the news and our prime minister called this act punishable and also said that it doesn’t correspond to what the charter stands for. Ironically, she wants to change it to make our province as religiously neutral as possible.
Quebec’s charter of rights and freedom states the following in its preamble:
Whereas every human being possesses intrinsic rights and freedoms designed to ensure his protection and development; Whereas all human beings are equal in worth and dignity, and are entitled to equal protection of the law;
Whereas respect for the dignity of human beings, equality of women and men, and recognition of their rights and freedoms constitute the foundation of justice, liberty and peace;
Whereas the rights and freedoms of the human person are inseparable from the rights and freedoms of others and from the common well-being; Whereas it is expedient to solemnly declare the fundamental human rights and freedoms in a Charter, so that they may be guaranteed by the collective will and better protected against any violation.
If those words were to be true, why would our Prime Minister choose to forbid anyone from wearing a religious symbol at work? The only options they have are either to take them off or leave the job they have.
I’d like to know what did the hijab ever do to our prime minister, to the Parti Québecois, to Québec in general? A lot of people noticed that this rule was directly targeted at Muslim women, especially those who wear the hijab.
The main reason would be that hijabis (what I call women like myself who are Muslim and wear the hijab) are seen almost everywhere. Some of them are teachers, while others are nurses or educators. And as soon as those changes apply, all of these working women will lose their jobs.
Because of what?
Because of a simple piece of cloth that we put on our heads. Of course, hijab has more value than a simple piece of cloth, but it is a fabric that we wrap around our heads.
It doesn’t have any superpower to hypnotize non-Muslims; neither does it have a device that risks causing severe damage! Believe it or not, those were things that were said to me, by people who seemed to not quite understand the beauty of hijab.
If only they knew how amazing it makes me feel when I wear it. I have a connection with my hijab now; it is a part of who I am, something that comes naturally. Honestly, the thought of taking it off scares me.
If someone ever told me that I HAVE to take it off, it would be considered a violation to my personal rights and freedom of expression. The government never ceases to say that we need to adapt, we shouldn’t force our beliefs on others.
If any of them asked me to describe my family, this is what I would say:
We are a practicing Muslim family, we follow the rules of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the prophet Mohammad (SAWS).
We eat all sorts of food (as long as it’s halaal of course). We are very open-minded and you can talk to us about anything. My dad and my brother are hardcore hockey fans! We eat Quebec’s main dish, the poutine, very often. My siblings and I have been going to public schools, celebrating the holidays (Christmas, Easter, Halloween) like everyone else.
The only difference is that we don’t do those things when we’re home. Also, the fact that I was the only practicing Muslim at my school didn’t help at all! Alhamdulilah now, I can say that it has gotten easier.
Furthermore, I couldn’t care less if someone shares the same beliefs as I do, and most Muslim women (if not all of them!) share the same opinion. I always tell my non-Muslim friends that everyone has their own beliefs and ways of life; they have their way and I have mine.
You know the feeling you get when you think you did a good job and that it would be satisfying enough for others, but then realize that it’s not? Well, this is how I feel right now. A feeling of disappointment. Granted, Pauline Marois wasn’t elected by the majority.
So this means that her proposition probably won’t be accepted by the national assembly. Meanwhile, we endure those stares from people who don’t get that our hijabs are just a way for us to represent who we are, a part of our identity.
That everyone is free to believe in it or not, that’s it!
What saddens me the most about this whole thing is the fact that there are some citizens who actually believe that Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and so on must stop doing a public display of their religious beliefs or at least keep it to a minimum (something like an earring with crosses on them or a bracelet with the star of david on it for example) in order to not influence the people around them…
While I can understand the fear some of them may have to see their national identity disappear (because historically speaking, Quebec has had its fair share of difficulties when it comes into fitting in with the rest of Canada), it doesn’t give them a reason to be so hateful towards us.