Rania El-Alloul declines $50K crowdfunded donation

Rania El-Alloul, the Montreal woman who was asked by Quebec Court Justice Eliana Marengo to remove her hijab, has declined a crowdfunded donation of more than $50,000, saying the money could be put to better use.

Hijab-wearing woman says money could be put to better use by promoting human rights

Wearing the same hijab she did when she went to court, Rania El-Alloul poses for a photograph at her home in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Rania El-Alloul, the Montreal woman who was asked by Quebec Court Justice Eliana Marengo to remove her hijab, has declined a crowdfunded donation of more than $50,000.

El-Alloul's case made national headlines and led to an outpouring of donations to help her buy a new car.

But in a letter posted on the fundraising website set up in her name, she explained why she decided not to accept the money.

"The awareness raised by this campaign has brought us people from all over, who have offered support to carry this issue forward,"  El-Alloul wrote. 

"As a result, I believe that these funds can be put to better use helping those whose rights have been forfeited and stories left untold."

Secular place

The controversy began on Feb. 24, when El-Alloul appeared before Marengo in Quebec court to get her car back after it had been seized by Quebec's automobile insurance board.

Marengo told El-Alloul that the courtroom was a secular place and that she would have to remove her hijab if the case was to proceed. After El-Alloul refused, the case was suspended indefinitely.

In an interview with CBC Montreal's Daybreak, El-Alloul, a single mother and welfare recipient, said there are other people who need the money more than her.

"I don't want what happened to me to happen to anybody," she said Friday.

"My objective is still about justice and equality."

There had also been concern accepting the donation would jeopardize her welfare status.

El-Alloul said she's still in shock about what happened and wanted to raise awareness about the rights of Canada.

Organizers of the crowdfunding campaign said the money would be put toward establishing a student bursary in her name, as well as donations to Canadian civil liberties organizations.

Formal complaint planned

In a separate interview, El-Alloul also said she's planning to file a formal complaint against the judge.

She said she's working with the Ottawa-based National Council of Canadian Muslims on a formal complaint against Marengo to be filed with Quebec's judicial council, which oversees judges appointed by the province.

Earlier this month, Montreal resident Jean-Pierre Lussier, who doesn't know El-Alloul, filed his own complaint against the judicial council.

In her ruling, Marengo cited a Quebec court regulation that states simply that people appearing before a judge must be "suitably dressed."

The incident prompted NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to publicly condemn the judge's actions.

The prime minister's office issued a statement saying that as long as people's faces were uncovered, they should be permitted to appear before a judge. 

El-Alloul's car was seized after her 21-year-old son was stopped while driving it with a suspended licence. In Quebec, cars seized in such circumstances are held by the Insurance board for 30 days.

El-Alloul said she expects to finally get her car back on Friday.

with files from Steve Rukavina