I would like to thank Davide Mastracci for his commentary, “Take it off,” (Commentary, September 18, online) which raises concerns about a campaign I started with my Université de Montréal colleague, Marie-Joëlle Zahar, calling on educators to wear a visible religious symbol in their lectures, to protest the proposed Charte des valeurs québécoises, and to express solidarity with vulnerable groups.
The commentary raises the worry that our strategy “veers into being culturally appropriative.” I would like to reassure Mr. Mastracci that I consulted with and received positive responses from both the Muslim Students’ Association as well as the Muslim Council of Montreal.
Salam Elmenyawi, President of the Muslim Council of Montreal, responded on September 16, that he was “elated, heartened and humbled […] to know that my fellow citizens are willing to go so far to defend my right and the right of my community, in fact it is the right of all of us.” Furthermore, on September 22, Mr. Elmenyawi wrote, “While the hijab is an integral part of my religion it is simply a scarf open for anyone to use, the purpose of which is modesty and if anyone wishes to wear it for any reason they are welcome, as we have no exclusivity over it. However, those wearing it for solidarity with Muslim women and to protect the rights of all are indeed very much appreciated and such action would be considered an honourable action in defence of freedoms.”
In addition, our reasons for opposing the Charter should take into account not only the fundamental freedoms that would be violated, but also the adverse economic and social consequences for members of vulnerable groups, such as the denial of equal opportunity to work in the public sector, and the thwarting of their efforts to integrate into Quebec society.
Associate Professor, Political Science