AFT Bulletin, 2020-11-23

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Courtroom Log of Hak versus AGQ: Week 2

Bill 21 Before the Courts
Summary of the Second Week, 9th – 13th November 2020
Quebec Superior Court

Previously, during the first week of legal proceedings of the case Hak versus Attorney-General of Quebec (AGQ), all witnesses, including the principal complainant Ichrak Nourel Hak and ten others, were on the side opposing Bill 21. But during the second week, all testified in favour of Bill 21 with the exception of the theologian Solange Lefebvre who had not finished her testimony on Friday November 6th.


Education, Not Indoctrination

Monday afternoon, the court heard testimony from two witnesses for the MLQ, including Ensaf Haïdar.

Ms. Haïdar is well known for her tireless efforts to free her husband Raif Badawi, imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for many years for promoting freedom of expression. Having left that country in 2012 and arriving in Quebec in 2013 where she and her three children were warmly welcomed, she considers herself a non-practicing Muslim. Ms. Haïdar supports secularism because she wants her children to receive “an education which is not overly religious.” In her estimation, religious symbols have no place in schools. In particular, the Islamic veil makes women invisible and “is not a good image for Quebec.” Comparing her adopted country with her country of origin, she is shocked “to see four mosques in Sherbrooke, while I have never seen even one church in Saudia Arabia.”


Passive Proselytism and the Inferiorization of Women.

The next day, Tuesday, began with the testimony, for the MLQ, of Nadia El-Mabrouk whose background is Tunisian and Muslim. She remembers a time in Tunisia when “We practiced religion in a relaxed way,” but fundamentalist Islamists from Egypt arrived and gained influence, promoting the veil and claiming that women who did not wear it would go to hell. Her husband’s background is Catholic and they both have non-religious values. In her opinion, teachers have a duty of religious neutrality and must not wear any religious symbol. There should be no religious education in schools.

Ms. El-Mabrouk explained further. Children must be protected from all forms of proselytism, both active and passive. Equality between women and men is crucial. The veil transmits the message that women must hide their hair so as not to enflame men’s passions. This is demeaning for both women and men, as if all boys were sexual predators. The veil presents a very bad image of Islam, symbolizing the inferiorization of women, and is an aberration rooted in political Islam.

The veil is not a positive model and does not in any way promote openness or living together. Wearing the veil is incompatible with the educational mission of schools. Even if worn by choice, it is still a marker of “virtue” which implies that women who do not wear it are not virtuous. The pressure on girls is enormous. Whether in Quebec, Algeria or Tunisia, the meaning of the veil remains the same.

Ms. El-Mabrouk does not oppose the veil everywhere, but only in State institutions, and in particular in schools, because wearing it in these places is a form of passive proselytism. Let people do what they want and wear whatever they want elsewhere, but not in schools. “Schools are meant to serve children and their parents. Their purpose is not to serve teachers.” Furthermore, “a teacher who is adamant about wearing the veil even in class raises serious concerns that she may also be actively proselytizing.”

As for the ERC program, Ms. El-Mabrouk proposes that it should cover the topic of secularism instead of promoting a falsely positive view of all religious practices.

Read the full article

Quebec Bill 21 From a Legal Perspective

Pierre Cloutier ll.m
(in French)

Loi 21, Perspective juridique

View this video on our website

Why We Support Bill 21

David Rand
(in English)

Why We Support Bill 21

View this video on our website

Legal Fund: Fundraising Campaign
for our Court Intervention in Support of Bill 21

Bill 21

We, Atheist Freethinkers, will intervene in the court case involving Quebec Bill 21, An Act respecting the laicity of the State, defended by the Attorney-General of Quebec. Our intervention will be as a friend and in support of Bill 21, that is for secularism.

We seek the help and solidarity of anyone who, like us, supports secularism and recognizes the landmark importance of Bill 21 and the necessity of defending it against the well-funded and reactionary forces who are attempting to turn back the tide of secularization of the Quebec State. We ask you therefore to donate to our legal fund so we may complete this process. Any amount, big or small, is welcomed and appreciated.

Donate to our Legal Fund

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