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Montreal woman to file complaint after judge imposes no hijab rule

WATCH: Rania El-Alloul speaks out after a Montreal judge refused to hear her case because she was wearing a hijab. Global’s Aalia Adam reports. 

MONTREAL – It’s been an emotional week for Rania El-Alloul and her family.

On Tuesday, she appeared at the Montreal courthouse to appeal a case against Quebec’s automobile insurance board after her son was caught driving with a suspended license.

The family car was seized and El-Alloul was in court simply to get it back.

Before hearing her case, judge Eliana Marengo said the courtroom is a secular space and religious symbols are not considered suitable.

“I will not hear you if you are wearing a scarf on your head, just as I wouldn’t allow someone with a hat or sunglasses or any other garment not suitable for a court proceeding.” 

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The single mother of three could not believe what she was hearing.

“I was surprised, I told her no I can’t, it’s not a hat,” El-Alloul told Global News.

The judge gave her an ultimatum, either she takes the hijab off or they postpone the case while she consults a lawyer.

El-Alloul refused and the judge adjourned the case to an undetermined date.

“All my body was shaking, I started to cry when she rejected it.”

The Court of Quebec is standing by the decision and told Global News it’s up to the judge to apply the law the way she sees it.

Constitutional law professor,  Robert Leckey disagrees with the judge’s interpretation of maintaining a secular courtroom.

“Secular means a lot of different things to a lot of different people but the idea that the state or the judge shouldn’t be favouring one religion, is completely distinct from the idea that individuals should hide their religion,” he said.

Even Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard could not understand the choice the judge made.

“I’m a bit disturbed by this decision I must say.” 

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Reaction continues to pour in from across Canada and around the world.

The federal government’s official response came from the Minister of State for Multiculturalism.

Tim Uppal said, “If someone is not covering their face, we believe they should be allowed to testify.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau tweeted his reaction.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the judge made a mistake.

“I expect this individual to be given a full and proper hearing in short order,” Mulcair told reporters in Toronto. “It’s a simple matter of that person’s rights as a Canadian.”

There will be no review of the case but Rania El-Alloul does plan on filing an official complaint against the judge.

She said she will never be intimidated to change her beliefs.

“I’m proud of it, I will never remove it. I came to Canada first day with hijab. I will not remove it for small case because of my car in the court. This is not justice.”

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