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Hijabs in private schools supported - Montreal Gazette, Canada

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  • Zafar Khan
    Hijabs in private schools supported Rights commission to issue legal opinion ALLISON LAMPERT The Gazette Wednesday, June 15, 2005
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 19, 2005
      Hijabs in private schools supported
      Rights commission to issue legal opinion

      The Gazette
      Wednesday, June 15, 2005


      A majority of private schools have a duty to
      reasonably accommodate their students' religious
      beliefs, says a legal opinion to be made public today
      by the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

      The opinion, The Gazette has learned, supports the
      right of Muslim girls to wear hijabs at non-profit
      private schools - a demand that's sparked controversy
      in the past.

      In fall 2003, a Muslim student at College Charlemagne
      in Pierrefonds left the private high school after
      administrators wouldn't let her wear her religious
      headscarf to class.

      The case of Grade 11 student Irene Waseem became a
      cause celebre for Muslim activists when her family
      filed a complaint with the commission.

      When the family dropped the complaint a year later,
      the commission backed away from publicly taking a
      stance on religious accommodation in private schools -
      until now.

      The opinion, titled "Reflections on the scope and
      limits of the duty of reasonable accommodation in the
      field of religion," comes a decade after a similar
      legal analysis was prepared by the commission for
      public schools.

      In 1995, the commission said public schools must
      "reasonably accommodate" their students' religious
      practices, for example by letting them wear hijabs or
      Jewish skullcaps.

      But the question remained: did private schools have an
      equal obligation?

      The question has become especially pertinent in recent
      years with private schools taking in more and more
      students from different cultural backgrounds.

      Yet some private schools still forbid religious
      headgear as a violation of their dress code.

      A commission spokesperson wouldn't discuss the opinion
      until it is made public today.

      Still, the spirit of the opinion is consistent with an
      internal report by the commission in 2004. In that
      report, the commission said not-for-profit private
      schools weren't exempt from the legal notion of
      "reasonable accommodation" of religious practices.

      Salam Elmenyawi, chairperson of the Muslim Council of
      Montreal, said he expected the commission to uphold
      the conclusion in its 2004 report. But Elmenyawi
      questioned why the review took almost two years.

      He said he knows of a handful of cases in Montreal in
      which girls are being denied permission to wear the
      hijab to class.

      "Many of our daughters have been suffering, waiting
      for a decision from the human rights commission," he
      said. "This decision will affect many girls."

      © The Gazette (Montreal) 2005

      Wise decision on right to wear hijabs


      The Gazette

      Thursday, June 16, 2005

      Click here to find out more!

      It took a little longer than it should have, but the
      Quebec Human Rights Commission has finally done right
      by Irene Waseem and, indeed, by all devout young
      Muslim girls who go to private schools. The commission
      concluded this week that College Charlemagne was wrong
      to forbid Waseem to wear her hijab to class when she
      was a student at the Pierrefonds high school two years

      The college's private status is irrelevant, commission
      president Pierre Marois wrote in an opinion made
      public this week. Private, not-for-profit schools have
      the same obligation as public schools to make
      reasonable accommodation for their students' religious

      More about Hijab at:

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