Quebec Judge To Apologize For Ordering Woman To Remove Hijab In Court

“I will therefore not hear you if you are wearing a scarf on your head, just as I would not allow a person to appear before me wearing a hat or sunglasses on his or her head, or any other garment not suitable for a court proceeding,” the Judge said.

Quebec Court Judge Eliana Marengo, who had told Rania El-Alloul that her case would be heard on condition that her hijab be removed in February 2015, is ready to apologize for her order. The province’s judicial council stated that the judge will offer a letter of apology to El-Alloul which will be made public, in exchange for the dropping of disciplinary complaints launched against Marengo as a result of her comments. The news comes as a settlement agreement is finalized between the parties.

A five-year legal battle between Marengo and El-Alloul started when El-Alloul appeared in court in order to retrieve her impounded car.  “In my opinion, you are not suitably dressed,” Marengo told El-Alloul at the time. “Decorum is important. Hats and sunglasses, for example are not allowed. And I don’t see why scarves on the head would be either.” 

Marengo continued, “I will therefore not hear you if you are wearing a scarf on your head, just as I would not allow a person to appear before me wearing a hat or sunglasses on his or her head, or any other garment not suitable for a court proceeding.”

El-Alloul, who described the experience as humiliating, refused to remove her hijab. “I felt that I had to choose between my sincerely held beliefs and my fundamental right to be heard by a court on an application that was important to me,” she said.

After hiring renown Canadian human rights and constitutional lawyer Julius Grey, El-Alloul and Grey filed a motion to have the Quebec Superior Court issue a statement clarifying that religious attire is permitted in courts. In October 2018, after the case was appealed, Quebec’s Court of Appeal ruled that Marengo’s order for El-Alloul to remove her hijab was a violation of her fundamental rights. The decision stated that citizens who appear in front of the courts should be allowed to have access to justice while exhibiting their freedom of religious expression.

The appeal panel, composed of three judges, stated that courts are indeed spaces of religious neutrality, within limits. “This does not mean, however, that judges may rely on the neutrality of the courts alone as a justification for preventing litigants from accessing a courtroom simply because they are expressing sincerely held religious beliefs” the appeal panel stated.

Additionally, numerous complaints were filed with the Conseil de la magistrature, the body that hears complaints against judges within the province. A committee was formed to investigate Marengo’s conduct in 2016. Marengo attempted to halt the investigations by filing appeals both with the Court of Appeal, and later with the Supreme Court of Canada who refused to hear her case. The Court of Appeal stated that continuation of the investigation was necessary, as it is “the only possible avenue for an enlightened justice.”

READ MORE: Kansas City Gun Range Denies Muslim Woman Entry Because Of Her Hijab

Kansas City Gun Range Denies Muslim Woman Entry Because Of Her Hijab

"Hats, caps, bandanas, or any other head covering will be removed in the facility, except baseball caps facing forward.” She was told by the range's manager that keeping her scarf would pose a safety risk.

A Kansas City area gun range is under fire for violating the civil rights of a local Muslim woman by not allowing her into the facility unless she removed her hijab earlier this year.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is demanding the U.S. Department of Justice launch an investigation into the denial of services by Frontier Justice during an incident earlier this year at one of their gun ranges located at 800 NE Jones Industrial Dr in Lee Summit, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.

Rania Barakat shared her experience in a video conference on Facebook Live with CAIR this past Thursday. The incident, which took place on January 1, unfolded after an hour long wait on  a busy New Year’s Day out with her husband, who had used the range in the past with friends. When the couple approached the cashier to pay, they were told by staff that she must remove her hijab in order to use the facilities. 

Barakat stated that she’d shot at other gun ranges in the past without any issue. Frontier Justice employees cited the company’s dress code policy, which is listed on its website, “Hats, caps, bandanas, or any other head covering will be removed in the facility, except baseball caps facing forward.” She was told by the range’s manager that keeping her scarf would pose a safety risk. The couple left once it became clear they weren’t going to be let in.

Afterwards, Barakat said she went online to leave a review only to discover that other hijabis in her community had encountered a similar experience at the range, some she even knew personally. 

“The law demands equal access to public accommodations regardless of your race, color, religion and national origin,” said CAIR attorney Zanah Ghalawanji. “Frontier Justice has disregarded and violated the civil rights protections by actively excluding Muslim women who wear the hijab from their business.”

The company, whose website denotes its core values of “Faith, Family and Freedom,” has facilities in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas. Their site also makes note of their involvement in Christian education, which leads one to believe they would be more sensitive to issues of religious expression. 

“To have this happen to me personally, it was very sad and, you know, frustrating,” Barakat said. “And I would never want anyone to go through what I went through.”

In Thursday’s conference, Moussa Elbayoumy, chairman of CAIR’s Kansas board, mentioned that the chapter had received other reports around the same time from other hijabis who were also told they had to remove their scarves in order to shoot at the same location. He stated that the range’s policy isn’t based on any legitimate safety concerns, and is deliberately meant to exclude Muslim women.

“Frontier Justice, you know, says they value faith, family and freedom,” Zanah Ghalawanji, a CAIR National attorney said in the conference. “That appears to be their motto, but, however, their actions tell us that they have shown otherwise.”

You can read CAIR’s letter to the Department of Justice in full here or donate to support Barakat’s legal defense via their official fundraiser.

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#HijabisFightBack: Belgian College Students Protest Headscarf Ban Constitutional Ruling

Since the Belgian Constitutional Court ruled that a headscarf ban is allowed in higher education, twelve Belgian universities have announced they will not impose such a ban in their classrooms.

 

The Constitutional Court of Belgium made the decision to allow the ban on headscarves imposed by Francisco Ferrer Brussels university college. A group of Muslim women who were studying at Fransisco Ferrer Brussels university college, made a complaint. The Brussels court referred the case to the Constitutional Court of Belgium. At the start of June, the Constitutional Court decided that the possibility of a headscarf ban was not contrary to the Constitution or the European Convention on Human Rights. The possibility of such a ban applies to not only headscarves but all symbols expressing religious or political opinions. 

The ruling sparked backlash on social media. Students, young people and rights organizations say the decision is a violation of a basic human right. People protested the ruling by using hashtags such as, #TouchePasAMesEtudes (Don’t touch my studies) and #HijabisFightBack.

On Sunday afternoon, thousands of Brussels students gathered at the Mont Des Arts for a demonstration against the decision. The legal protest, called “Hijabis Fight Back” was organised by 24-year-old student and documentary filmmaker Fatima-Zohra Ait El-Maâti and her friends. The protest took place in the middle of their final exams.

The campaign has put pressure on Belgian universities to announce whether or not they will choose to uphold the controversial ban on their campus or not. The campaign recently paid off, with 12 Belgian universities and colleges ensuring students they “will not impose such a ban,” stressing that “religious freedom is protected in their classrooms,” according to The Brussels Times.

The Free University of Brussels tweeted a statement stating “Equality and inclusion are central to VUB. Diversity is a fact, at our university as well. So let it be clear that every student is welcome with us regardless of gender, origin or social status. With or without headscarf.”

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