Jean-Francois Roberge, Quebec’s Education Minister, probably thought it was a public relations coup when he posted a photo of himself with famed human rights advocate Malala Yousafzai on his Twitter account.
— Jean-F. Roberge (@jfrobergeQc) July 5, 2019
Nice meeting with Malala Yousafzai, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, to discuss access to education and international development.
Instead, he opened himself up to criticism and accusations of hypocrisy in the wake of Quebec’s recent Bill 21, which requires public employees — including teachers — to remove religious attire if they want to keep their jobs.
Yousafzai, of course, is a Muslim woman who wears a hijab.
So despite Roberge’s claims to have had an interesting conversation with her about “access to education and international development,” the new law would disqualify her from working as an educator in Quebec’s public school system.
Twitter users were quick to point out the hypocrisy.
When asked what he would say to Yousafzai if she wished to become a teacher in Quebec, Roberge had this to say:
Je lui dirais certainement que ce serait un immense honneur et qu’au Québec, comme c’est le cas en France (où nous sommes actuellement) et dans d’autres pays ouverts et tolérants, les enseignants ne peuvent pas porter de signes religieux dans l’exercice de leurs fonctions. #ÉduQc https://t.co/LEWztEU0ul— Jean-F. Roberge (@jfrobergeQc) July 5, 2019
Literal translation: “I would certainly tell her that it would be an immense honor, and that in Québec, as is the case in France (where we are now) and in other open and tolerant countries, teachers cannot wear religious symbols in the exercise of their office.”
Actual translation: It would be an honor to have Malala teach in Quebec as long as she drops the whole “Malala” thing while on the job. We want people like her. We just don’t want her.
Yousafzai is known for her advocacy for girls’ education, particularly in her home country of Pakistan, where in 2012 she was famously shot in the head by Taliban militants. Before that, she had written under a pseudonym about her life as a student who feared that education would be denied to her because of her gender. Her ideas have garnered her a Nobel Peace Prize and led Time magazine to name her among its Most Influential People in 2013.
The government of Quebec, it seems, places a higher priority on an appearance of religious neutrality than on the intelligence, insight, and clarity of thought demonstrated by a woman like Yousafzai. They care more about what’s on a woman’s head than what’s in it.
Unless, of course, they can use all she stands for to give themselves political cover, even as they block career and civic opportunities for Muslim women living in the province of Quebec.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)