After years of litigation, Gurbaj Singh Multani, a Sikh student in a Montreal-area high school, wins his appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada and is allowed to wear his kirpan to school, provided it remains safely strapped to his body, beneath his clothing. Hérouxville, a small town in rural Quebec, passes a town charter that forbids, among other things, the stoning of women. A sugar shack closes its dance room temporarily so that Muslim patrons can pray. A YMCA in Montreal’s Rosemont neighbourhood frosts its windows after worshippers from the Orthodox Jewish synagogue across the street complain that the scantily clad women on the gym’s treadmills offend their religious sensibilities.
I am currently teaching a course on religion and multiculturalism. Whenever I run out of material to present in class, or when I see eyes drooping and decide that it’s time for a change of pace, I know of one sure-fire way to win back my students’ attention – mention the hijab. Trust me. Give it a shot. Conversations stop. Eyes snap to the front. Instant undivided attention.