RPL Press Release, 2021-12-12

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Press Release, Rassemblement pour la laïcité (Alliance for Secularism)

Veiled Teacher at Western Québec School Board

RPL Denounces Political & Media Exploitation


12th December 2021 — The Rassemblement pour la laïcité (RPL) denounces the media and political exploitation of the announcement of the job transfer of Ms. Fatemeh Anvari, teacher at the English-speaking Chelsea elementary school of the Western Quebec School Board (WQSB), for non-compliance with Quebec’s State secularism law (Bill 21). We do not doubt Ms. Anvari’s competence nor that she was appreciated by her students. However, having been hired by the School Board after Bill 21 was passed into law, she was fully aware of her duty of religious neutrality and the School Board knew full well that her hiring was illegal.

“The State secularism law was adopted democratically and is applicable throughout the entire territory of Quebec. Applied in schools, it protects children’s freedom of conscience by imposing on teachers a duty of religious neutrality, both in fact and in appearance. In the same way that teachers have a duty of discretion and may not display their political preferences by wearing badges or buttons, they must not display their religious preferences by wearing religious symbols on the job. That is the law. Ms. Anvari had a choice between obeying the law and wearing an overt religious symbol while on duty. She chose to display her religious beliefs. As a result, she herself chose to exclude herself from the teaching profession,” declared Mr. Claude Kamal Codsi, president of the Rassemblement pour la laïcité.

The State has a duty of religious neutrality in its relationship with its citizens. Respecting this duty is all the more important in schools when dealing with young children. School should be the place where we transmit knowledge and common civic values, such as equality between women and men, free from any religious pressure.

“It is distressing that some politicians and columnists continue to confuse people by describing the hijab as a mere ‘headscarf’ or even a symbol of freedom. They ignore the fact that wearing the hijab is a religious practice associated with a religious movement that fiercely opposes any form of freedom for women, as we see in countries that practice totalitarian Islam, such as Iran or Afghanistan for example. They also ignore the fact that many citizens from Muslim countries ask only to integrate into our society and send their children to schools free from religious influence. Such Muslims, who have often left their countries in order to flee religious indoctrination, are held hostage by a minority in the host country which opposes the values of secularism and equality,” declared Nadia El-Mabrouk, board member of the RPL.

“Symbols broadcast messages and meanings and Ms. Fatemeh Anvari knows this very well. The secular school is no place for the transmission of religious messages, whether through teaching or religious display. Rather, it is a place where respect for children’s freedom of conscience takes precedence,” concludes M. Codsi.

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   Mme Nadia El Mabrouk (514) 222-9980
   M. Claude Kamal Codsi (514) 998-3371

This press release is also available in PDF format.

5 comments on “RPL Press Release, 2021-12-12
  1. Luke Fevin says:

    Again, Bill 21 isn’t a secular bill, nor should it be called as such. Bill 21 is, “An Act respecting the laicity of the State.” (http://www.assnat.qc.ca/…/proje…/projet-loi-21-42-1.html).
    “laicity” ≠ “secular”. Definition of ‘laicity’ : a political system characterized by the exclusion of ecclesiastical control and influence (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/laicism)
    Definition of secularism
    : indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/secularism)
    Despite not being the same thing, NEITHER definition demands that individuals operating in a capacity on behalf of the state, or fullfilling their employment duties for the state be prohibited from wearing items that celebrate or acknowledge their personal faith tradition or beliefs.
    And yes, there are completely reasonable arguments for when that tradition might impair the fullfilment of the job function (Perhaps consider the burka in customer facing positions).
    One of the premises on which Canadian legislation is based is that of “reasonable accomodation” – and it’s a beautiful idea and we are better off for it as a country.
    If the state was formally privileging religion, or one religion over others (like it does in many forms on both fronts) I’d be all over it. In fact I usually am.
    But this isn’t the same. This isn’t the state. This is about people. Just going about their lives. Doing their jobs. Honoring their cultural traditions or worldviews.
    Seriously. Why the fuck do I care if my bus driver is wearing a turban, or my kid’s teacher is wearing a hijab?
    One of the issues I have with religion comes from them often historically being assholes to others when holding power. As secular humanism becomes increasingly the norm, I don’t want to be the new asshole judging & limiting everybody else.
    If we want Freedom FROM Religion, then we must honor Freedom OF Religion.

    • David Rand says:

      (1) Secularism must include the principle of religion-State separation in order to be complete. A civil servant or teacher wearing a religious symbol on the job obviously violates that separation.

      (2) So called “reasonable accomodation” is incompatible with secularism and is certainly not reasonable because it always involves granting privileges to a religion. Frankly, it is a very stupid idea.

      (3) You display typical Canadian arrogance: This is how we do things in English Canada, so Quebec must do the same. WELL NO, QUEBEC WILL DECIDE FOR ITSELF.

      (4) Read this, or watch the video: “Why We Support Bill 21” https://www.atheology.ca/special/2020-08-08-why-we-support-bill-21/

  2. Roman Korol says:

    Bravo David Rand; well said!

  3. Mr. Fevins comments (do we not call people out on poor vocabuary/rude langauage anymore?) motivated me to check the definition of “secular” in my trusty, and trustworthy, Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Please compare for yourself.
    I had no idea dictionaries had thrust themselves into relious politics. I’ll never feel the same way about websters again.

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