Proposal to ban hijab, religious clothing, ignites debate in Canada's Quebec

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A proposal to ban many public employees from wearing religious symbols is creating a fiery debate in the Canadian province of Quebec, where people are fighting to freely practice their religion — or to be free of it.

The measure introduced late last month would prohibit civil servants, teachers, nurses, bus drivers, lawyers and other people who interact with the public from wearing religious symbols while at work.

It would apply to Sikh turbans, Christian jewelry and Jewish kippahs, but the focus of the controversy has been over hijabs worn by many Muslim women in Quebec.

"The proposed legislation will affect Muslims more than other groups as they are the fastest growing religious group," said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto. Muslims represent about 3% of Quebec's 8.3 million people.

Thousands of demonstrators attended a recent march in Montreal to protest the measure, with some holding signs saying, "No one tells women what they can wear" and "It's what's in my head, not on my head, that matters."