This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
in a photo that has quickly made the rounds of media in Quebec and internationally online: there were nearly 9000 Facebook shares in just 48 hours. We are the parents whose children attend a private daycare where the educators wear the niqab. This photo leaves in its wake a huge range of comments, some violent (“2 bullets; it’s hunting season, let’s go!”), some Islamophobic (“Let’s burn these women and rape them like pigs!”), some calling for tolerance (“These children look fine and don’t seem affected by the difference”), some ignorant (“These children must have nightmares at night after seeing ghosts all day”). We are the parents of the children in the photo. This is the point we want to discuss. Not to debate the charter, one way or the other, not to push our positions, not to talk pro- or antihijab/niqab… We just want to talk, as parents. Maybe we have something in common: being a mother or a father. When it came time to find a daycare space for our child, we visited plenty of spaces with a long list of criteria in mind: the location and its surroundings, the philosophy, the staff, the history. These fairly “rational” criteria counted for a lot, but there was also another factor that couldn’t be ignored: what did your heart tell you? From the first phone call, once all our “rational” criteria were satisfied, the daycare’s owner announced from the outset that she wears the niqab. That she ’d understand if this made us uncomfortable and we preferred to find another daycare. This of course brought up a flood of new questions (this article by Jenn Hardy recounts the experience wonderfully: http://www.islamophobiatoday.com/2012/02/28/what-if-my-daughter-isafraid-of-her/). It also awoke a voice at the core of our beings: never ever would my child attend a daycare like that. But whether it was because of the honesty (which is so essential) on the part of the owner, out of curiosity or to simply go through all of our options with a fine-tooth comb, we went to visit the daycare. Our heart: what allows any parent to make the decision that they believe to be best for their child. And thus, upon visiting the daycare, we were introduced to the whole family. We were able to ask all our questions, including some of the more embarrassing ones. We were introduced to their philosophy, their vision on educating their children, their gentleness, their kindness, their openness. The mothers and children were able to see the faces of the educators (who, to be clear, remove their veil for the entire day in the presence of the children). The fathers had to make an additional effort to get past this physical barrier. But the trust came. And with that, our apprehensions, our fears, our doubts all quietly faded away.
But this feeling that has bombarded us since this photo was published online has shaken us. Our fears and doubts have nothing to do with the daycare our children attend. The source is external, in our neighbourhood, and it is targeting our children. It comes from the horrible scenes where people empty their glass in the face of the educators, insult them in the park in the presence of our children. Take their photos, and those of our kids as well. This time, our heart tells us that our kids are in danger. Is being parents something we have in common? How would that make you feel, seeing your child in a photo generating so many hateful comments? Because we, after two years of standing alongside them, know that these women were born and/or raised in Quebec. We now know that their husbands support them every step of the way in their choice to wear or not to wear the veil (conscious of the fact that not wearing the niqab would certainly be less stressful for their family!). We know they are universityeducated, that they speak English and French. That they are loving. We know they take care of our children as if they were their own. Their niqab is, in our eyes, a decision that is their own. No matter what the reasons. The important thing, for us and our children, is who they are as people. In the same way that we’ll eventually disagree with the questionable clothing choices of our future teenagers. Or that we disapprove of our parents ’ divorce, or the red square on the cegep teacher’s jacket. The people around us that we care about, in our family, in our circle of friends, sometimes make decisions that we disagree with or that are far removed from our values. But because we’ve had access to these people, because we’ve taken the time to know them, above all else we appreciate them. And we choose to respect them as individuals. To the people shouting their insults and taking photohraphs: these women, and their husbands as well, open their doors to you to discuss. They do not want to indoctrinate the children of those who don’t share their faith. They want nothing but the best for them. Our childrens’ smiles when speaking about them is all the proof we need. And if you don’t want to meet them, so be it. But above all else, if you don’t agree with their choices, we beg you: respect them, and our children too. Chris Poupart David Hughes Esther Laforest Genee Latreille Julie Cunningham M. Mathieu Mandana Nouri Mehrdad Anvari Noah Forrest Pascal Richer Sébastien Grenier-Cartier Véronique Landry Yanie Lupien