A Quebec woman is shocked after a judge refused to hear her case because she was wearing a hijab in a courtroom. Among the community, it has sparked outrage, and even a crowdfunding campaign which has already raised over 40,000 dollars for the woman.
Rania El-Alloul found herself in the courtroom of Judge Eliana Marengo looking to get her car back from the provincial automobile insurance board after her son was caught driving the car with a suspended license. Without the courts approval, she would have to wait until sometime in mid-march to have the car returned to her. She argued that she needed the car back to help support her family, who are facing financial issues. The case didn’t exactly make it very far, as the judge asked El-Alloul to remove her hijab, something El-Alloul calls a religious requirement. She refused, and the judge refused to hear her case. The judge claimed that El-Alloul wasn’t “suitably dressed” for a courtroom, citing the fact that people can’t wear hats or sunglasses in the courtroom, therefore she can’t wear a hijab in there either. Don’t mind the fact that a hat and sunglasses are completely different than a hijab. One is religious, the other isn’t. The judge went further to call the courtroom a secular place, in which there are no religious symbols allowed, and thus, El-Alloul can’t wear her hijab. From the perspective of an outsider, it’s blatantly obvious that this is absolute non-sense. The hijab should make no difference to her court case, but there is another aspect the judge forgot about.
Either the judge has never read Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or believes that upon entering the courtroom you abandon your rights. “The freedom of conscience and religion” is described as a fundamental right in Canada. On that basis alone, it’s easy to conclude that El-Alloul should be allowed to wear the hijab in the courtroom. She is still identifiable, as her face is still visible, and her right to wear it is guaranteed in the charter of rights and freedoms, that should be the end of any discussion about whether or not she should be allowed to wear the hijab in the courtroom.
As for why the judge felt the need to treat this woman in such a manner is not known. The hijab falls under her right to freedom of religion. If she wants to wear it, no one should stop her. It doesn’t affect anything in the courtroom, and her case doesn’t automatically become less important because she happens to be wearing what she believes is a religious requirement. There shouldn’t have even been a discussion about it in the first place, it should have been a normal court case, and instead the judge made a big deal over what she was wearing on her head, disregarding the fact that in Canada she has every right to wear it.
Outside of the courtroom, many Canadians disagreed with the conduct of the judge. A fundraising campaign alone raised over 40,000 dollars for the woman, which says a lot, and the reaction in various interviews of regular Canadians shows that in society the conduct of the judge is unacceptable.
Claiming that she was not suitably dressed for court is absolute nonsense. Wearing a hijab is not unsuitable for court. Would the judge have reacted the same way if a man walked into the courtroom wearing a turban? What if someone walked in wearing a cross around their neck? Would that be different? No matter what the religion or what particular religious symbol they may have on their body, it should not affect whether or not a judge hears their case. If someone walked in shirtless it would be very reasonable to say that person is not suitably dressed for court; but that is not what happened here. A hijab should not be an issue. This should not be a big debate; this shouldn’t even be in the news, because it should have never happened.