Protesters denounce Bill 94
About 100 demonstrators gathered in front of Montreal city hall Saturday afternoon to express their anger over the Bill 94, legislation tabled by the Charest government that seeks to ban the niqab and the burqa.
If passed, Bill 94 would force anyone providing or receiving government services to do so with an uncovered face.
The bill was proposed last month in the midst of a renewed debate over reasonable accommodation, sparked when a Muslim woman was expelled from a French course for refusing to remove her religious face covering.
Afifa Suleman, and 11-year-old girl wearing a niqab at Saturday's protest, said she plans to ask her parents to move back to Pakistan if the bill passes.
"Where they have respect for religion, for women and their modesty, that's where I'd go," she said.
Christina Dudander, a non-Muslim woman who attended the protest, said the government's proposed legislation is excessive -- given that just a few dozen women in Quebec wear the niqab or burqa.
"It's really a very small issue, it does not involve a very big problem at all. Why do they pick on women who can't defend themselves?" she asked.
The protest was organized by Meena Samreen, a Montrealer who spent five years living in Pakistan.
Samreen believes the biggest problem in the west is a lack of understanding when it comes to Islam.
"Go to a mosque, go and sit down and listen to a sermon. It's not what people think. It's nothing to be afraid of," she said.
Samreen also said Bill 94 is hypocritical.
"We send our troops to protect those women, to open educational institutes for them, and here we're stopping women from going into educational institutes because they choose to cover their faces," she said.
But others, like Anabelle Gendron, are uncomfortable with face coverings in public settings.
"They should take their religion and do it at home, but in school I don't really think it's appropriate," said Gendron.
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