Rania El-Alloul a hijab-wearing Muslim woman, appeared on her own in a Quebec court. In the first few seconds of the matter being called, she was asked by the judge why she wore a scarf on her head, to which she replied that it was because she was Muslim. The judge told El-Alloul that unless she took off her hijab, her case would not be heard.
Judge Marengo did not cite any security or identification concerns when she made this decision but instead conflated the hijab with sunglasses and hats, which are routinely removed by persons entering courtrooms and stated that the same rules ought to apply to all people. She also found issue with the hijab being a religious symbol, which in her opinion was not permitted in the courtroom stating that El-Alloul was not “suitably dressed” in accordance with the regulations of court.
Muslim women who wear the hijab do so out of a sincerely held religious belief and this right is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The message that this decision sends is that the courts are exclusive to people who look a certain way. If Judge Marengo’s reasoning were to hold up it would necessarily mean that Jewish men could not enter our courts wearing kippas, that Sikh men and women could not enter courts with turbans, that Christian men and woman could not wear crosses and so on.
There are dozens of Muslim women who practice law in Canada and around the world wearing a hijab. They are educated, leaders within their communities, and contribute greatly to their profession.
The right outcome of this would be for the Judge Marengo to reverse her decision and offer an apology to Ms. El-Alloul.
Source: Amna Qureshi – staff lawyer who wears the hijab in court every day.