As It Happens

A Montreal Judge refused to hear a Muslim woman's case because she was wearing a headscarf

Rania El-Alloul told the judge she would not remove her hijab. "All night I was crying . . . because of the way she dealt with me."
Rania El-Alloul, the Montreal woman whose court case was deferred because she refused a judge's request to remove her headscarf. (CBC)

Rania El-Alloul appeared in a Quebec courtroom on Tuesday. Judge Eliana Marengo instructed her to remove her hijab, or head covering. "Hats and sunglasses, for example, are not allowed. And I don't see why scarves on the head would be either," the judge said.

Then the judge refused to hear El-Alloul's request that her car be released from the provincial car insurance board. It was seized after her son drove it with a suspended licence. When El-Alloul requested its release, the judge said she would not rule unless she removed her hijab, or head covering. 

El-Alloul refused. She tells As It Happens guest host Peter Armstrong , "I told her I'm a Muslim. And I think everybody knows that any Muslim lady, if she's wearing a hijab, she can't remove it outside her home. I think she should have stopped talking about my scarf, and opened my case."

"All night I was crying. Not because of my case that she rejected. I was crying because of the way she dealt with me." 

Since the incident, both provincial and federal politicians have voiced their concerned. The Prime Minister's spokesperson said "If someone is not covering their face, we believe they should be allowed to testify."

A spokesperson for the Court of Quebec, Anne-Claude Bergeron, says the judge is no longer dealing with the case since she has already ruled and it is now out of her hands.

As for Ms El-Alloul, she is shaken, and is vowing to lodge a complaint against Judge Eliana Marengo. "Twelve years I've been living here in peace, and we were very happy. " El-Alloul says she's never experienced anything like it. "It's the first time I'm facing this problem, and it's not in the street. It's in the court. [..] I'm not blaming all judges. Just this judge."

"I'm talking for all people, for all religions. Even for Sikh people, for Jewish men who wear the kippah. It's a freedom."