Validating Prejudice is not Secularism - A statement by Teesri Duniya Theater on Bill 21.

Teesri Duniya Theatre vehemently opposes the Quebec Government’s proposed Bill 21 posits a stance of equality and anti-religious secularism by banning teachers, police officers, judges, prison guards, crown prosecutors and many other public servants from wearing hijabs, turbans, kippahs, and crucifixes while on duty. Bill 21 would also require citizens to uncover their faces when accessing public services like municipal transit and the legal system.

A key characteristic of an inclusive democracy is equality before the law and freedom of expression. Bill 21 infringes on these fundamental rights. It profiles Muslims, Jews and Sikhs based on religious attire. By barring visible minorities from public service jobs on the basis of their attire and religious adherence, Bill 21 will exclude them from fully participating in the economic and social life of Quebec and sanction discrimination by the state. In addition to the fact that the proposed law will violate the Canadian constitution, it will also contravene Articles 1, 2, 18, 19, 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has not only been signed but also ratified by Canada.

Denying Muslims, Sikhs and Jews public service jobs because of their attire defies the principle of state neutrality in our democracy. Because this Bill’s pernicious effects fall most heavily on Muslim women, it also clearly promotes gender-discrimination, while claiming to resolve this ongoing and real societal principle of equity. Far from being neutral, Bill 21 validates prejudice and stigmatizes racialized and ethnic minorities already burdened with overt discrimination.

Instead of correcting misinterpretations of secularism, and eliminating root-cause of prejudices and media misinformation, Bill 21 fuels controversy and divisiveness. There is increasing concern and evidence before us to demonstrate that the current controversies around secularism are masking prejudices against visible and religious minorities and unfortunately, are often promoted by misleading media coverage.

We believe in secularism and state neutrality; however Quebec Government’s Bill 21 will shift our society to the opposite position. It distorts secularism and asserts an ideological platform designed to promote homogeneity of a civil cultural state while validating discrimination and perpetuating prejudices.

Since hate crimes against Muslim, Jews, Sikhs and other visible minorities are on the rise, it is the government's responsibility to protect rather than further discriminate against marginalized communities.

Adhering to the principle of separation of State and Religion, we demand withdrawal of Bill 21. We ask the government to implement inclusive public policies to combat discrimination and contribute to greater social justice.