(OTTAWA, CANADA – 02/03/06) – The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) welcomes the decision from the Supreme Court of Canada that upholds religious freedom by overturning a ban on the Sikh ceremonial dagger in Quebec schools.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a strong statement protecting religious freedom in educational settings,” says Riad Saloojee, the Executive Director of CAIR-CAN. “This decision gives hope to many Muslims who have also faced restrictions on their religious practices in schools,” he added.

In a unanimous 8-0 decision rendered today, the Supreme Court overturned a ban by the Quebec Court of Appeal on the Kirpan, saying that “religious tolerance is a very important value of Canadian society” and that accommodating the kirpan “demonstrates the importance that our society attaches to protecting freedom of religion and to showing respect for its minorities.”

While the ruling relates only to the Kirpan in educational settings, it is likely to be reassuring for many Canadian Muslims, particularly those in Quebec, notes Halima Mautbur, CAIR-CAN’s human rights coordinator.

Some Quebec schools, such as McGill University, have refused to provide reasonable prayer accommodations to their Muslim students, leaving them praying in dirty, cramped hallways. The Muslim students at McGill filed a human rights complaint against the school in December, saying the school’s position of telling the students to buy prayer space amounted to “rights for the rich” only.

For more information on the human rights complaint against McGill, please
see: http://caircan.ca/itn_more.php?id=2159_0_2_0_M

Some Quebec private schools have also barred Muslim girls from wearing the hijab, an Islamic headscarf, despite an opinion from the Quebec human rights commission upholding the right to wear the hijab.

“We hope that this decision – a strong commitment to upholding religious freedom – will resonate throughout Canada and cause educational and other institutions, both public and private, to respect the religious practices of minorities,” says Mautbur.

For more information, please contact Halima Mautbur at 613-795-2012.


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