Quebec Law Bans Burqas in Gov't Settings

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A new law requires Muslim women in Quebec, Canada, to remove their head coverings while applying for government services in the province.

The decree also applies to women who work in offices that supply government services.

The law, which covers all garments from the face veil to the burqa, says such coverings are unacceptable if they hinder communication and visual identification.

According to Premier Jean Charest, the new rule is intended to defend both gender equality and secular public institutions.

"This is a symbol of affirmation and respect - first of all, for ourselves, and also for those to whom we open our arms," Charest said during a news conference.

"This is not about making our home less welcoming," he added. "But about stressing the values that unite us."

An accommodation cannot be granted unless it respects the principle of equality between men and women, and the religious neutrality of the state," he said.

However, given that Muslims make up such a small portion of the population, some have questioned the need for the legislation.

"It is a knee-jerk reaction to the opposition and vote-grabbing more than anything else," concluded Salam Elmenyawi of the Muslim Council of Montreal.

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