MONTREAL - Leaders of the Canadian Muslim community have joined thousands of protesters who took to the streets to reject the provincial government of Quebec's proposal to ban public employees from wearing conspicuous religious items while on the job.
The protest was a success, but it is just the first step on our journey to defeat this Charter, Salam Elmenyawi, President of Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM), told OnIslam.net.
We will continue to stand up in solidarity to defend and protect the rights of all Quebecers and Canadians.
Last week, the province's governing Parti Quebecois (PQ) unveiled its proposed Charter of Values to ban religious symbols from public office, including hijabs, turbans, yarmulkes and larger-than-average crucifixes.
If the charter were adopted by the provincial Legislature, it would affect all public servants, including judges, police, prosecutors, public daycare workers, teachers, school employees, hospital workers and municipal personnel.
We thank all those who came out to protest against the Charter, as well as the many more from all across Quebec and Canada who have been supporting our cause and defending our rights, Elmenyawi, MCM president, told OnIslam.net.
This is not just a cause that concerns members of religious minority groups, but rather one that concerns all those who are in support of justice, human rights and civil liberties.
Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the north American country.
A survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
In a recent poll, most for the Quebeckers were found not concerned about religious accommodations.
Though it has the second largest Muslim population in Canada, the east-central province of Quebec is one of the most Islamophobic provinces in the country, where Muslims are facing different kinds of discrimination and racism.
Joining the debates, the Canadian Council of Imams has expressed concern over the Quebec government's plan.
The Canadian Council of Imams joins with the large number of Canadians, who believe in preserving Canadian values of Freedom of Religion and tolerance and calls on right thinking Canadians, in Quebec and elsewhere, to speak out against this pending injustice that drives some members of our society into its margins, the Council said in a press release. Freedom of religious practice must be respected and a covered head should not be a barrier to a Canadian identity.
All three federal party leaders have also spoken out strongly against the Charter.
When Quebecers begin to actually contemplate the idea that provincial bureaucrats might be getting out a tape measure to measure the size of people's crosses, to see whether or not their earring is too obviously religious - this gets to a point of almost Monty Python-esque absurdity, Canadian Federal Multiculturalism Minister, Jason Kenney, told CTV's Question Period, in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
And I don't think the majority of Quebecers will support that kind of overbearing application of the power of the state on what is a benign and frankly innocuous exercise of peoples' basic liberty.
In an open letter published in national newspapers, Federal Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau called the Charter divisive.
The PQ's plan is to divide the people of Quebec over a problem that does not exist, wrote Trudeau.
It creates two classes of citizens - those who hold religious beliefs and those who do not - under the pretext of secularizing a state that is already secular.