CAIRO - After a four-year struggle, Canada's largest province of Quebec has finally allowed prisoner guards to wear hijab, the Montreal Gazette reported Wednesday, December 21.
The Quebec Public Security Department agreed to change rules to allow prison guards to take on hijab at work.
"They have to make a written demand and it won't be automatically granted," said Valerie Simard, a spokeswoman for the department.
The change came after a Muslim girl filed a complaint with the human rights commission in 2007 to be allowed to wear hijab while on duty.
The complaint came after the then 19-year-old girl refused to remove her headscarf during a training to become a Quebec prison guard.
The girl, who had passed all preliminary tests, was told that she could not don the veil for safety reasons.
The human rights commission found that the rules banning prison guards from wearing hijab were discriminatory.
The commission said Tuesday that it has reached a deal with the Quebec government to allow Muslim women to wear hijab at work.
To comply with safety regulations, the department will provide a Velcro-fastened hijab to its staff.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
The rule change to allow hijab for prison guards has drawn criticism from some Canadian groups.
"This is completely unacceptable," said Carole Poirier, the Parti Quebecois critic for secularism issue.
"The guards are state employees and should not wear any conspicuous religious symbols, especially not in a jail where the neutrality of the state should be obvious."
But Simard, the department's spokeswoman, defended the decision.
She noted that Correctional Service Canada allows its Muslim guards to wear hijab in the federal penitentiary system.
Quebec was a scene of similar rows over the wearing of hijab.
In 2007, an 11-year-old Ottawa girl was expelled from a soccer game for covering her hair.
Two months later, a taekwondo team of Muslim girls withdrew from a tournament over their hijabs.
An 11-year old Muslim girl was also thrown out from a national judo tournament for wearing hijab.
Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the Roman Catholic country.A survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.