Quebec Muslim associations denounce government ban on prayer rooms in schools
The group says it is considering challenging the provincial government in court
A group representing Muslim associations in Quebec wants the provincial government to rescind a directive prohibiting the presence of prayer spaces in elementary and high schools.
On Wednesday, Education Minister Bernard Drainville banned school service centres from transforming classrooms into places of prayer.
In a joint statement issued Thursday evening, representatives from several mosques with the Table de concertation des organismes musulmans (TCOM) expressed their shock and indignation at the decision.
The group is now looking into legal options.
The TCOM points out that the move comes in the middle of Ramadan, which runs from March 23 to April 23 this year.
"It brings up a lot of emotions in our community," said the president of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec, Mohamed Labidi.
He also criticizes the provincial government for having announced this directive without consulting the organizations representing the Muslim community.
The authors of Thursday's statement include representatives from the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec, the Islamic Association of Rimouski, the Islamic Cultural Association of Estrie, the Association of Muslims of Greater Lévis, Mac-Québec, the Association socioculturelle islamique Louperivoise and BelAgir-Québec.
Battle in court possible
The TCOM is considering going to court to battle the provincial government's decision. Labidi says he has been in communication with several Muslim leaders in Montreal.
"We all agree with the idea of going to court. We find that our rights are violated and lawyers advise us to do the same," said Labidi.
But no decision has been made yet.
"We will study the case legally and if our lawyers tell us to go ahead, we will," he said.
Labidi says the education minister is "not offering a way of dialogue" and is pushing the TCOM to "take the path of rights recognized by the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights and freedoms to fight the decision."
Pray silently, says minister
The education minister's office declined Radio-Canada's request for comment about the statement on Friday.
"School is not a place of prayer. A person or a group should not be able to use a classroom as a prayer room," said Drainville earlier this week.
"It's just not compatible with the principle of secularism, with the law on state secularism."
Unable to prohibit prayer at school, the minister is asking the students to do so silently.
"Now, if someone wants to pray silently, that's their basic right," he said.
The government confirmed that it does not intend to stop the use of prayer rooms in CEGEPs and universities.
"The directive only concerns the public school network," said a spokesperson for the minister of higher education, Pascale Déry.
Based on reporting by Radio-Canada's Félix Morrissette-Beaulieu