Published Sept. 11, 2023
Ahmadiyya Muslims gathered at a forum in Montreal on Sunday to discuss faith and how to express it in Quebec society.
Ten years after the Charter of Values was first introduced in the province, they say they still haven’t been consulted on issues of religion and state.
Forum organizer Nazia Rafique says Bill 21 cost two of her friends their careers.
“I’ve seen my friends who have lost their jobs, but it didn’t break their spirits… they kept going on, and I think that’s important,” said Rafique.
Some at the forum say issues for Muslims in Quebec began with the Charter of Values, which was officially proposed ten years ago on September 10, 2013.
While the charter didn’t become law, the restriction on religious symbols in certain jobs did move ahead. Despite the hearings into Bill 21, many say they still feel left out.
“The real issue I see here is also because we were not consulted before adopting the law,” said Asif Arif, who spoke at the forum.
“Perhaps if people knew us a little bit better, they might fear us less because there is an amount of fear out there,” said Arif.
Bill 21 is popular in the province. A 2022 Leger Poll found 55 per cent of Quebecers support it.
When it passed in 2019, the premier reiterated secularism is a core value.
Many participants at Sunday’s event agree that religion and state should be separated but believe the province has been too restrictive.
“I dress like this, and this is how I express myself, and I’m very comfortable with myself. This is my identity. My scarf, my hijab, my burqa,” said Rafique.
Participants hope the forum can help people learn about who they are beyond what they want to wear.