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Imagine Having the Audacity to Tell Malala Yousafzai, Actual Education Hero, She Can’t Teach in Quebec With Her Headscarf

This is beyond the pale.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29: Malala Yousafzai gives a speech as she unveils her official portrait by artist Nasser Azam at Barbar Institute Of Fine Art on November 29, 2015 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images)

Malala Yousafzai needs no introduction. She’s a Nobel Prize winner and activist whose work to educate young women around the world has been a beacon of hope, and yet, the Quebec education minister, Jean-François Roberge, had the outright audacity to say that he’d tell Yousafzai that she could teach in Quebec only if she removed her headscarf.

In June, Quebec lawmakers passed a bill banning many public employees from wearing religious symbols to work, and banned those with face coverings—namely women in niqabs—from receiving government services like riding public transportation. The New York Times writes of this ban that “Critics say that the legislation will effectively exclude religious Muslims, Sikhs and Jews from positions of authority in education and law enforcement … They also argue that it threatens to foment Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and fear of other minorities.”

The law itself is absolutely ridiculous and deeply harmful. Imagine telling Yousafzai, a young woman who was shot by the Taliban for attempting to get an education, that she must remove her headscarf to teach. And this goes beyond Yousafzai, too; there are now men and women who will be prevented from working because of their religious beliefs.

Roberge dug himself into a deeper hole by saying that, while it would be an honor for Yousafzai to teach in Quebec, she would have to remove her scarf because in “open and tolerant countries, teachers can’t wear religious symbols while they exercise their functions.” You can read the tweet in which he says so below.

To be frank, there is nothing open or tolerant about banning a young woman from a teaching position based on her religious beliefs, which is what this is. It’s bigotry masking itself as tolerance. In a truly tolerant society, this discussion would not be happening.

Twitter naturally rallied to Yousafzai’s defense.

This is not a sign of religious tolerance or of possessing an open mind. This is bigotry, plain and simple. Yousafzai should not have to be belittled in such a manner, and those in Quebec who are impacted by this decision should not have to choose between their faith and their careers.

(via Montreal Gazette, image: Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images)

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Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.