Last month, an issue that you wrote about and have campaigned about was Bill 21 in Quebec, which bans the display of religious symbols by government employees in certain sensitive positions, such as teachers, judges, policemen. This was apparently a long time in coming, about ten years.
Yes. Quebec has a very unique history in that for almost a century it was under the grip – all of the society was under the grip of the Catholic Church. ... But Quebec revolted – literally – in a social revolution in the 60s and has since then taken the position that religion will not have anything to do with the state. Almost like the First Amendment establishment clause in the United States. And it has actively pursued it. So, Catholicism, or the Catholic Church, has virtually no role in affecting any policy decisions in Quebec ...
The people of Quebec have long "taken the position that religion will not have anything to do with the state."
But the major issue that nobody wishes to talk about – the elephant in the room – is the rise of Islamism in North America. And after 9/11 the people of Quebec and the politicians there came to realize that they were being undermined – the society was being affected – by quite blatant calls for the imposition of sharia. So, in about 2005 the Quebec National Assembly unanimously decided and voted for the ... prohibition of any sharia law in Quebec state. And that was led, by the way, by a Muslim woman of north African origin, who later became the deputy speaker of the Assembly.
So there was a commission established as to how Quebec could go further in secularization of its society. And for ten years repeatedly governments got elected on different promises of how they would implement the [Bouchard–]Taylor Commission report. And by the time the legislation would come forward the coalition would collapse and a new election would come up.
But this time, a center-right party, the CAQ [Coalition Avenir Québec], ran on the promise that they will, as priority, establish laws that will make it transparent for any citizen to approach a public official without having to know his or her religion. It should have complete transparency.
And therefore Bill 21 was passed, which does not ask people to take of their hijabs or their turbans, but any new recruits [into government positions] would be barred from this. I think the hijab was the intention, but the casualties on the sidelines Jewish kippah that is worn by folks in and around the Montreal area or a few Sikh turbans. There was, for a lack of a better term, collateral damage in trying to sound universal.
They could have simply said that the flag of the Muslim Brotherhood could not be worn on people's heads. But I don't think we are at that level in society where truth can be spoken.
So, the law has been passed. And the outrage expressed by Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups on one side has been countered by a very large number of Francophone Muslim groups, who have come out in defense of the law. And their position has been that this is not a religious symbol at all – this is a political symbol. It comes from the Muslim Brotherhood.
The hijab "is not a religious symbol at all – this is a political symbol. It comes from the Muslim Brotherhood."
Perhaps no one that I know can produce a photograph of their grandmother wearing a hijab. I issue a personal challenge to anyone among my Muslim personal friends: Can you produce a photograph that shows that this has some history and culture? No, nobody wore the hijab. I come from the Indian subcontinent. ... I spent 30 years of my life in Pakistan, I never heard the word "hijab" and never saw anyone wear this contraption anywhere in the university that I attended. No one in my family, my friends. Even the most orthodox side of my family, I never saw anyone.
So this is a Muslim Brotherhood symbol, sort of a marker that many Muslim women are pushed to wear. That's so that they can stake out their territory.