Dress code in a Montreal Muslim school: Bashar ElSolh justifies that non-Muslims female teachers be required to wear the hijab
Author: André Bellemare
Source: The Gazette, October 24, 1994, p. A3
Original title: Forcing hijab on teachers unacceptable: Houda-Pepin
Forcing non-Muslim woman teachers to wear Islamic headdress in Muslim schools is an assault on the Charter of Rights and completely unacceptable, says a Muslim member of the National Assembly.
« I’ve worked to promote the charter, » said Liberal MNA Fatima Houda-Pepin, a leading spokesman for cultural communities in Quebec. « But when I see behavior like this I feel a moral duty to defend it against assaults like this. »
A private Muslim school in Montreal requires teachers of all faiths to wear the hijab to cover their hair.
« We wouldn’t have even considered imposing it on Christian teachers in my school as a precondition to being hired, » Houda- Pepin said in a recent interview.
She said she rejects all forms of fundamentalism and the veil and headdress have become a symbol of Islamic fundamentalism.
The issue arose recently when a Montreal high school asked a student not to wear the hijab to classes. It violated the school’s dress code, officials said.
« It’s all the more cause for concern because behind the veil is a whole code of behavior imposed on little girls and women, » Houda-Pepin said.
« For example, some parents are saying their daughters shouldn’t take music courses, science, physical education and so on – that’s really starting to cause problems.
« I don’t accept the notion that people can impose rules for women’s behavior, the way they should think or act, in the name of religion or science. »
The issue doesn’t help to build bridges between the Muslim community and others, she said.
The Muslim community has mounted a campaign in favor of the hijab and intends to petition Education Minister Jean Garon.
Bachar ElSolh, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, invokes the Quebec Charter of Rights and the United Nations Charter to defend that position.
Wearing the hijab is « a divine obligation » ordered by Allah in the Koran, he said.
But Houda-Pepin said wearing the hijab isn’t a religious duty in the strict sense of the term and the issue is a matter of interpretation, not of directives.