Quebecois Premier Jean Charest proposes bill limiting public services for niqab wearers

Quebec will refuse all government services, including education and non-emergency health care, to fully veiled Muslim women under legislation tabled yesterday in the National Assembly.

Jean Charest, the Liberal Premier, said the bill establishing guidelines for the accommodation of religious minorities is aimed at “drawing a line” to demonstrate that gender equality is a paramount Quebec value. The bill applies not only to government departments and Crown corporations but also to hospitals, schools, universities and daycares that receive funding from the province.

The proposed guidelines in Bill 94 follow an uproar this month over the expulsion of a niqab-wearing woman from French courses after she insisted that male students in her class not see her face. Quebec’s Immigration Department tracked her to a second college where she was studying French and had her expelled again because she would not remove her niqab, a veil that leaves open a slit for the eyes.
Quebec, which for more than three years has been grappling with the issue of accommodating religious differences, is the first province to take such a stance against the niqab and burqa. In Ontario, women wearing a full veil can make special arrangements to receive government services without exposing their faces to male bureaucrats.

Mr. Weinstock said Quebec is addressing head-on issues that are being ignored elsewhere in Canada. “This is a very good thing,” he said. “Whatever happens as a result of the debates in the National Assembly over this bill, and whatever the final form of this legislation is, we are having a very interesting societal debate here in Quebec that has to do with issues that are not specific to Quebec.”

Far-right leader strache building bridges to islam

Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), has proclaimed his respect for the Turkish community and Islam during a meeting with the Turkish ambassador, Kadri Ecvet Tezcan. After having praised Turks in Austria as “hard-workers,” Strache called Turkey an “outstanding country which Austrians love to visit,” and stated that the many Islamic places of worship in Austria were a matter of course, and that through dialogue many prejudices could be countered. For his comments, Strache was presented with Islamic prayer beads as a gift by Tezcan, which Strache accepted before rolling cameras. Turkish-language newspapers in Austria have stated they are now “curious to see Strache’s future behavior towards Turks and Islamic,” following these moderate statements.

Easy to recruit young people to terrorism in Denmark

Leading experts on terrorism think Denmark is developing into a nesting box for Islamic extremists. On a Danish conference on terrorism Ghaffar Hussain, leader of the Quilliam Outreach and Training Unit, said that the feeling of being an outsider and not being part of the society is extensive among young Muslims in Denmark. This makes it easy to recruit young Danish Muslims to terrorism. The Israeli terror expert Jonathan Fine and Stephen Tankel from the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at Kings College said that the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis has placed Denmark high on the terrorists list of targets. Also the Swedish terror expert Magnus Ranstorp points out that Denmark is an attractive target among terrorist groups. “An attack on Denmark would mean money and prestige for a terrorist group” Ranstorp says.

The head of the secret service, Jakob Scharf, says there is a need for understanding the motivational factors that leads to radicalizing. He says the feeling of being marginalized is a very important motivational factor towards radicalization and that Denmark therefore has to focus on including young Muslims to a greater extent.

German islamic preacher Pierre Vogel is legal in Switzerland

The controversial German Islamic preacher Pierre Vogel has surprisingly and legally entered Switzerland in order to give a talk during an educational seminar in Disentis, in the canton of Graubünden. Vogel is not considered a “hate or radical preacher” in Germany, however he had been refused entry to the country last December, though Swiss authorities state that there is no officially entry ban for him. The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (IZRS), organizers of the event in question, announced that Vogel’s participation had not been announced in other to expose the negative stigma against him “in full public view as false and unjustified.” Jonas Montani, spokesperson for the Swiss Federal Agency for Migration, stated that the prior entry refusal could not be compared with Vogel’s participation in the educational seminar.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali returns to Netherlands

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is in the Netherlands this week to promote the release of her book Nomad. This marks her first substantive vision to the country since leaving Dutch parliament four years ago. During her visit, Ali commented on controversial politician Geert Wilders, suggesting that he is preventing violence by allowing a segment of the population to channel their anger through voting as opposed to rioting, though she also criticized him for raising false expectations with proposals that “cannot be translated into policy.”

Polls suggest majority of Canadians agree with proposed bill 94 limiting niqabs

Most Canadians agree with a proposed Quebec law that would refuse all government services to women wearing the niqab or burqa, an Angus Reid poll has found.

Ninety-five per cent of Quebecers support the proposed law, which would bar the face veil from government offices, schools and other publicly funded institutions, said the poll, conducted for The Gazette. In the rest of Canada, three out of four people agreed with Bill 94, which was tabled on Wednesday by the government of Jean Charest. The bill would require all public-sector employees to have their faces uncovered, as well as any citizen using government services, such as someone applying for a medicare card.

Mario Canseco, vice-president of public affairs for Angus Reid, said the survey shows an unusually high level of support for a government measure. “It’s very rare to get 80% of Canadians to agree on something,” he said. The poll showed that outside Quebec, Albertans are most likely to support the veil ban, with 82% approving the bill, followed by Ontario with 77% support, the Atlantic provinces (73%) and British Columbia (70%). Support for withholding government services from those wearing the face veil was lowest in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, at 65%.

Bloc Quebecois supporters favored the bill most (95%), along with Conservatives (86%) and Liberals (81%). Three-quarters of NDP supporters agreed with the bill.

Simon Sorgenfrei

Simon SorgenfreiProject Responsibilities: Scandinavia news and research

Positions:PhD Student
Department of Literature, History of Ideas and Religious Studies
University of Gothenburg

Personal Website

Area of Expertise:
Islam, Islamic History
Islamic History
Islam and Muslims in the West
Islam and Muslims in Sweden
Islam and Muslims in Scandinavia
Islamic Literature
Islamic Popular Culture
Sufi History
Sufism in the West

Select Publications:
Ramadan – en svensk tradition (Ramadan – A Swedish Tradition)
Red. Berglund, J &  Sorgenfrei, S. Lund: 2009

Kärleken begär att dessa ord skall fram – Jalaluddin Rumis liv, lära och lyrik (Love demands these words to be spoken – the life, teachings and poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi) Red. Dahlén, A & Sorgenfrei, S. Stockholm: 2008

Professional Bio:

Simon Sorgenfrei is interested in Islam and Sufism in the past and present. His thesis – “American Dervish. Traditions and Trajectories in the Mevlevi Order of America – focuses on Sufism in the USA and especially on the issue of tradition and change in the Mevlevi Order of America (MOA). Doing participant observations and interviews Sorgenfrei is interested in the activities of the MOA as a “lived religion”, focusing on individual narratives and meaning constructions. The study of the development and activities of Mevlevis in the west also allows him to contribute to the discussion on religious identity and categorization.

Simon Sorgenfrei has a background in Literature Studies, Persian Studies, History of Religions and Islamic Studies. He is currently teaching Religious and Islamic Studies at Södertörn University College in Stockholm, Sweden.