Hijab debate gets political in Canada
[PoliticsWatch updated 4:35 p.m., February 27, 2007]
|Eleven-year-old Asmahan Mansour is at the
centre of a controversy receiving international media
OTTAWA — A
Muslim Liberal MP expressed surprise and disappointed on Tuesday
after learning of Quebec Premier Jean Chrarest's comments supporting
a Quebec soccer referee's ejection of an 11-year-old girl from
wearing a headscarf during a soccer game for safety
"I think it's unfortunate," Liberal MP Omar
Alghabra said in an interview with PoliticsWatch. "I really think it's unfortunate that he's spoken out in that regard."
"I think it's really important to ask him why he did that."
While on the campaign trail on Monday, Charest defended the decision of the a Quebec soccer referee, who ordered an 11-year-old Ottawa-area girl,
Asmahan Mansour, to remove her hijab.
The premier compared the decision to rules governing players tucking
in their shirts when he played soccer as a youth.
The girl's team was playing a soccer tournament in Laval, Quebec at the time.
The team pulled out of the tournament after the ruling. The
referee's decision has the support of the Quebec Soccer Federation.
Charest's comments had already created an uproar with Liberals in
Quebec but on Tuesday he again stood his ground.
"On this issue, though, I haven't changed my mind. I think the federation applies their rules and they
should,” Charest said on Tuesday.
”They have their rules, and they're for safety. It's up to them to apply the rules, and they applied them in the way they saw fit … and I don't have a problem with
Charest's decision to take a public stand on the issue officially
brings to Canada what has been a heated political debate that has
been raging in Europe and Australia in recent years.
France and the UK have had numerous cases where burkas or
headscarves have been banned or politicians have raised
But up until recently, such controversies have not been seen in
Last year, Jack Straw, the UK Leader of the House of Commons,
sparked a debate about wearing the veil when he said he would prefer
if his constituents didn't wear them when he met with them. Straw
called the veil "a visible statement of separation."
Recently at the trial of Yassin Omar, a 21/7 London bombing
suspect, the court was shown closed circuit video of the suspect
escaping London by disguising himself as a woman wearing a burka.
"The issue of people hiding their faces under the burka, which covers the whole face, or behind the niqab, which exposes only the eyes, has also posed difficulties for banks, immigration authorities and benefit
offices," a Times of London story recently reported. "But questions of security have tended to be overruled by the need to maintain good community relations."
In Canada, Quebec now appears to be the battleground for a debate
about what is described as "reasonable accommodation."
This came after a small community called Herouxville approved a code
of conduct outlawing veils and the stoning of women among other
And recently another Quebec politician, Mario Dumont ,leader
of the Action Democratique du Quebec, has called for a Quebec
constitution to protect the province's Christian-based values.
Dumont's popularity has increased substantially in recent
"I think it's really unfortunate how this debate has been going in
Alghabra told PoliticsWatch.
"There's a mix of emotion and hyperbole and rhetoric instead of focusing on the actual substance and rights and freedoms. So I think some people are exploiting certain feelings for their own political gains."
While Charest had no problems wading into the hijab debate, the
federal government won't go there.
When PoliticsWatch asked Secretary of State for Multiculturalism Jason
Kenney what he thought about Charest's comments he said,
"To be honest, I don't know anything about soccer."
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