Quebec education minister criticized for remark about Malala Yousafzai's head scarf

Jul 9 2019, 9:59 pm

Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge is facing criticism after he said activist Malala Yousafzai could teach in the province if she removes her headscarf.

Roberge met with the 21-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner last week and posted a picture of their visit on Twitter.

Journalist Salim Nadim Valji replied to the tweet asking how Roberge would “respond if Mrs. Yousafzai wanted to become a teacher in Quebec?”

Valji’s question was referring to the Quebec government passing the religious symbol ban –known as Bill 21– in June.

Bill 21 bars workers in the public sector from wearing religious symbols — such as turbans or headscarves — in the workplace.

In his reply to Valji, Roberge said that it would be an honour if Yousafzai ever wanted to teach in Quebec but similar to “other open and tolerant countries” teachers in the province cannot wear religious symbols.

Roberge received a wave of criticism for his remarks about Yousafzai, who became a fierce advocate for girls’ education after being the target of Taliban assassins while travelling home from school on a bus in Pakistan in 2012.

But Quebec Premier François Legault sided with Roberge’s statement on Monday.

Roberge told Radio Canada reporter Sébastien Bovet that the issue involves “two different subjects.”

“Malala did a lot of work to make sure that young girls can have access to different schools in different countries,” he said.

“Right now, the second subject is about who can teach those children. In Quebec, like France, like in Germany, like in Switzerland we decided that people being in an authority position, including teachers, to show a clear separation between State and religion…”

When Bovet asked if Malala would be allowed to teach in Quebec, Roberge said she would be able to “if she accepts to remove a religious sign.”

Roberge added that he thinks “people wearing a religious sign are good people.”

But at the same time, I think it’s important in Quebec because secularism is an important value in Quebec, and we’re not the only country.”

Simran SinghSimran Singh

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