QUEBEC – Some Muslim students are rethinking plans to study in Quebec after the French-speaking province issued a legislation banning face-covering, including face-veil or burqa, saying the law has changed their perception of the province.
“That’s scary,” Batool Suleman, 17, said of the law, Toronto Star reported on Sunday, October 29.
“How can I, a citizen of Canada, not be allowed to go somewhere just because of a piece of cloth?”
Suleman said Montreal’s McGill University was listed as an option where she wanted to pursue a degree in chemical engineering.
Since the advent of Bill 62 on “religious neutrality,” however, she said her enthusiasm has cooled considerably.
The legislation, known as Bill 62, effectively bans public servants and those who receive public services from wearing a face covering, including Muslim women who wear the niqab (face veil).
The ban will be in force across municipal services, such as public transit.
The move was condemned by critics who worried that it deliberately targets Muslims women and could potentially exclude women who wear the niqab or burqa from accessing health services, sitting for school exams or riding the bus.
Wading into the debate on Quebec’s burqa ban, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stressed values of religious freedoms, adding that governments should not tell women what to wear.
In a sharp contrast to the welcoming atmosphere she enjoys in her hometown of Toronto, the young Canadian Muslim, who wears a hijab, said that she has already felt rising anti-Muslim sentiments on her past visits to Quebec.
The bill has maximized her fears, seeing difficulty in both transit and public libraries.
The Canadian Federation of Students agreed, issuing a statement condemning the bill and its impact on those who are already studying in Quebec.
“Islamophobia cannot be tolerated in Canada,” the statement reads. “ … The Canadian Federation of Students remains steadfast in this position and will continue to support those who organize against xenophobia and bigotry across this country.”
Those fears are also prominent for Farah Mikati, 15, who said her longtime ambition was to attend McGill’s prestigious law school after completing undergraduate work in Toronto.
Same as Suleman, Mikati said that Quebec burqa ban has changed her plans. Though she does not wear any religious garment, she said she can’t support a province that would deny members of her community the same rights she enjoys.
“Just as every woman has the right to reveal herself, the woman next to her has the right to conceal herself,” Mikati said.
“ … If the government is going to impact our basic rights, I don’t want to be a part of it.” “