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Canadian Judge Refuses To Hear Case Of A Muslim Woman Because Of Her Hijab

A Quebec judge told the single mother that she was "not suitably dressed" for court.

Posted on February 27, 2015, at 1:28 p.m. ET

A Quebec judge told Rania El-Alloul that she would not hear her case in a Montreal courtroom unless she removed her hijab, CBC News reported.

CBC News / Via

El-Alloul, a single mother of three boys, told CBC News that the first question Judge Eliana Marengo asked her in court was, "why are you putting this scarf on your head?" El-Alloul said she told the judge that she was a Muslim.

In a court recording obtained by CBC News, the judge told El-Alloul: "In my opinion, the courtroom is a secular place and secular space. There are no religious symbols in this room, not on the walls and not on the persons."

Marengo cited a Quebec court regulation which states that a person in court must be "suitably dressed" and told El-Alloul she was not.

"I will therefore not hear you if you are wearing a headscarf on your head just as I would not allow a person to appear before me wearing a hat or sunglasses on his or her head..." the judge told El-Alloul.

CBC News / Via

El-Alloul was in court to make a request to get her car back after police seized it from one of her sons, who was allegedly driving with a suspended license.

The judge took a 30 minute recess after which she gave gave El-Alloul two options: remove her hijab or apply for a postponement order to consult a lawyer.

El-Alloul responded that she could not remove her scarf which she had been wearing for many years.

When Marengo offered to suspend the case until El-Alloul found a lawyer, the single mother said she could not afford one.

"I'm on welfare by the way," El-Alloul said. "I'm separated. I'm living with three boys. I'm facing many problems."

Marengo replied: "I know that, but that's not what I'm talking about."

In a 2012 ruling on whether a witness could wear a niqab (full-face veil), the Supreme Court of Canada said it would be determined on a case-to-case basis. / Via CBC News

"I felt that I'm not Canadian anymore," said El-Alloul, who came to Canada from Kuwait 12 years ago.

CBC News / Via

"I cried too much," El-Alloul told CBC News after she had to return home without her car. "From yesterday night I'm crying."

She said that the first day she landed in Canada she was wearing her hijab.

""When I swore by God to be a good Canadian citizen I was wearing my hijab, and the judge, I shook hands with him the same day I became Canadian. I was really very happy. But what happened in court made me feel afraid. I felt that I'm not Canadian anymore," El-Alloul said.