Canadas fransktalende provins Quebec forbyr islamske slør som dekker hele ansiktet. Loven som ble lagt frem på onsdag innebærer at muslimske kvinner som bruker niqab eller burka blir nektet offentlige tjenester dersom de ikke fjerner det heldekkende ansiktssløret.
Den nye loven er en følge av protestene som ble utløst etter at en egyptisk innvandrer nektet å fjerne niqaben under franskundervisningen i Montreal, noe som tvang – etter flere forgjeves forsøk på å løse de praktiske problemene kvinnens religiøsitet medførte – skolen og provinsmyndighetene til å kaste henne ut fra undervisningsopplegget:
The college says the Muslim woman was given the front seat in the class so that all male students sat behind her. She was even allowed to make presentations from the rear of the classroom with her back to the class which had three male and 17 female students.
However, students and the college authorities were shocked when one day the woman asked male students to move away from her and refused to sit with them around a U-table to converse and learn French pronunciation.
Three weeks ago, the woman, a mother of three, moved the provincial human rights commission as the government toughed its stand on the niqab.
The government last week ordered that every niqab-clad woman must uncover her face to confirm her identity when applying for her medicare card. Wednesday’s bill will be the first such step in North America to curtail any religious dress.
According to the bill, women seeking medical and auto insurance services will have to remove their veil, adding that face coverings will not be tolerated in people’s dealings with government officials.
Speaking to the media, Quebec premier (equal to chief minister in India) Jean Charest said the step was needed for maintaining gender equality and secular character of public institutions.
«This (bill) is a symbol of affirmation and respect – first of all, for ourselves, and also for those to whom we open our arms. This is not about making our home less welcoming, but about stressing the values that unite us.
«An accommodation cannot be granted unless it respects the principle of equality between men and women, and the religious neutrality of the state,» the premier said.
Canadian Muslim leaders called the bill a «knee-jerk» reaction. Canada has about one million Muslims in its population of 34 million, and their population is expected to triple in the next two decades.
Til tross for at majoriteten av canadisk-muslimske kvinner ikke bærer hijab eller niqab, er heldekkende slør blitt et forholdsvis vanlig syn i Montreal, Toronto og Vancouver, der flesteparten av de muslimske innvandrerne er bosatt.
Også Frankrike vil forby heldekkende ansiktsslør. Tidligere denne uken sa president Nicolas Sarkozy at et slikt forbud vil beskytte kvinners verdighet:
«The full veil is contrary to the dignity of women,» he said. «The response is to ban it. The Government will table a draft law prohibiting it.»
The president gave no further details during his address to the nation following a heavy defeat in regional elections for his ruling Union for a Popular Movement party.
Speaking from the Elysee Palace Mr Sarkozy gave no indication as to how an outright ban would be imposed and policed.
France is home to six million Muslims.