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Quebec Orthodox Jews fight bill banning Muslim veils

TORONTO (JTA) — Quebec’s Orthodox Jewish community is fighting a bill that would ban women from wearing a Muslim face veil when receiving government services.

Quebec’s proposed legislation would ban the wearing of the Islamic face veil — the niqab and burka — in those situations.

Appearing Wednesday before a Quebec National Assembly hearing, the Jewish Orthodox Council for Community Relations said that by placing gender rights above religious rights, the bill would create a hierarchy of individual rights and freedoms that would be challenged in courts.

According to the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper, the group warned the government against adopting "hard and fast rules" that could exacerbate tensions surrounding religious minorities.

The bill conflicts with both the federal and provincial Charter of Rights, the Jewish group’s legal counsel, Lionel Perez, told a committee studying the legislation.

"It will lead to court challenges, and if it leads to court challenges there will be more media coverage," Perez said. "If there is more media coverage, it will lead to more scrutiny, and it will exacerbate the social tensions.

"The government has to be equal towards its citizens, meaning that it doesn’t distinguish between religions. And it has to ensure that it does not impose its view, whether religious or secular."

The council’s arguments clashed with other groups that are demanding an even tougher law that would emphasize Quebec’s secularism.
 

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