‘I will be a prisoner’: Muslim woman, supporters call Bill 62 discriminatory
Published Wednesday, October 18, 2017 8:10PM EDT
Quebec's new law concerning religious neutrality is not sitting well with many, including woman who wear religious face coverings.
One of those women is Warda Naili. Raised Catholic, she converted to Islam and wears a niqab by choice.
“That means I will be a prisoner. I will be a prisoner in my own house,” she said, adding that she doesn’t feel comfortable showing her face unless it’s to another woman. “If I'm at the hospital in the waiting room, I cannot take off my veil. It's impossible. I would be ashamed.”
Shaheen Ashraf of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women called the bill discriminatory and is questioning the motives behind it.
“In my mind, it's not an issue. Women's clothing is not an issue. If you want to go about naked, do it. If you have to go about covered, do it. It's your choice,” she said. “I define neutrality as being able to do what I choose and you are able to do what you choose and everyone else is able to do what they choose and that's neutral. Accepting each other as we are.”
Ashraf says it's distressing the issue keeps coming up.
“If it's not the niqab, it's the hijab, if it's not the hijab, it's the burqa, if it's not the burqa it's the chador, so I feel that every few days this stir-up must mean something,” she said.
The union of STM employees which has said it has no interest in enforcing a law banning face coverings.
“I don't think it's part of my job to do that,” said one driver.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre agrees, saying the bill isn’t practical.
“So what does it mean now? Niqab police as bus drivers? What are we going to do in libraries? And refuse to provide them with services? If (a woman is) freezing with children, say no? You have to pull that out. I don't think the doability is there,” he said.
Critics say the bill is not only unenforceable but likely unconstitutional and nothing more than an appeal to the irrational fear of some Quebecers.
“It is discriminatory and it's exclusionary,” said Kimberley Manning, chair of Concordia University’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute.
Manning believes religious neutrality is not the goal.
“So what's going to happen in winter when we're all wrapping up our heads and getting on the bus? Are we going to be asked to remove our scarves? No. This bill is not being addressed at everybody. It is being addressed to a particular population and sending a signal that there are particular groups in our society — Muslims — who are not as welcome as others,” she said.
Ashraf said this bill has been adopted simply because the Liberals are preparing for an election.
“I think the government was losing some popularity and it's pandering to the hate groups that are popping up everywhere because of the fear,” she said.
Naili said she worries what that fear and a new bill to support it could provoke.
“I think of all the people who don't like Islam, don't like Muslims, and think I'm an extremist and they will be happy with this law and will be comfortable with this idea of hating me. They will think they were right in thinking this way,” she said.