A judge in the Canadian province of Quebec has reportedly refused to hear the case of a woman who wore a hijab to the courtroom, according to CBC News.

Rania El-Alloul, a Muslim single mother arrived in court on Tuesday to plead with a judge to get her car back. The vehicle had been confiscated by an insurance agency after one of her three sons was caught driving without a license.

She needed the car and had little money. “I’m facing money problems,” she told Judge Eliana Marengo.

But before they could proceed, the judge told her the headscarf would not be allowed in her courtroom.

“The same rules need to be applied to everyone. I will therefore not hear you if you are wearing a scarf 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, or any other garment not suitable for a court proceeding,” Marengo said according to an audio recording of the proceedings obtained by CBC News. “I will not hear you, I have to apply the same rules to everybody.”

According to CBC, Marengo began by asking El-Alloul why she was wearing a headscarf. When she replied that it was because she was Muslim, the judge put the court in recess for a half hour, and later returned to tell her that the hijab had to go or El-Alloul could hire a lawyer to postpone the hearing.

“When she insisted I should remove my hijab, really I felt like she was talking with me as … not a human being,” El-Alloul told CBC. “I don’t want this thing to happen to any other lady. This is not the work of a judge. She doesn’t deserve to be a judge.”

Because El-Alloul didn’t have the money to afford a lawyer, and didn’t want to postpone the case, the judge adjourned the hearing indefinitely, according to CBC

In Quebec, this sort of intolerance of hijab-wearing women isn’t new. In 2013, the Parti Québécois tried to push through a secular charter of values that would prohibit public servants from wearing religious symbols, such as the hijab, kippas, turbans, burkas, or large crosses.

The measure eventually died. But it left bad feelings and tensions in its wake.

“‘Terrorist go back home,’ ‘you will get out of your veil, terrorist,’ all this kinds of stuff,” someone at a grocery store told day-care worker Hanadi Saad, according to the Globe News. “After September 11, there was a little of tension but it wasn’t like this.”

“Now it’s the worst and it’s getting worse and worse,” she said of the mood in Quebec following the proposed charter.

Another woman said she was attacked on a Quebec metro for wearing her hijab.

In El-Alloul’s case, she was stymied in court by Article 13 of Quebec court regulations that require people appearing before the court to be “suitably dressed,” a regulation that does not say anything specific about headscarves, religious garments or specific items of clothing of any kind.

By Marengo’s interpretation, headscarves are akin to other vanity fashion items that she prohibits in her court.

“Hats and sunglasses for example, are not allowed,” Marengo said in the recording, according to CBC. “And I don’t see why scarves on the head would be either?”

A spokeswoman for the chief judge of the Quebec Court told CBC that the decision about how to interpret that part of the law is “up to the judge.”

Sameer Zuberi, a board member with the Canadian Muslim Forum, disagreed: 

“This is really just a no-brainer,” Zuberi said.
“The judge should have known better. It’s not the first time somebody walks into a courtroom with a religious dress. Jews, men who wear the kippa, have been here for decades and they’ve certainly been involved in a courtroom setting.”