Crucifix at center of Quebec election debate
Parti Quebecois candidate Djemila Benhabib drew an outraged response from a local mayor Wednesday for saying the crucifix should be taken down from the Quebec legislature chamber.
Jean Tremblay, mayor of Saguenay, Que., and a professed Catholic, told a Montreal radio program that voters should be wary of Benhabib because she "comes from Algeria."
Tremblay said, "Our Quebec culture ... our Quebec flag -- does she know that it's the Christian cross on there?
"What shocks me ... is to see that we ... soft French Canadians, are being told how to behave, how to respect our culture by a person who comes from Algeria, and we can't even pronounce her name."
Benhabib had broken with the PQ party line in calling for the removal of the cross from the legislature. PQ Leader Pauline Marois says that while she wouldn't ban the crucifix, she would introduce a "secularism charter" that would restrict religious symbolism in the public sector.
Marois also called for an apology from the mayor. He said, "He is completely ignorant about Djemila Benhabib. (She's) been exemplary in her integration into Quebec society."
Benhabib has been Quebec's most outspoken critic of religion in general and Islam in particular. Her book "My life against the Koran" and her frequent criticism of Islamic fundamentalism has made her the target of death threats.
"I do not wish to respond to Mayor Tremblay and I do not want the debate to become focused on me," she said Wednesday in Trois-Rivieres, where she's trying to unseat the incumbent for the governing Liberals.
The district encompasses the town of Herouxville, which made headlines in 2007 when town council passed an "immigrant code of conduct."
That document included a ban on stoning women and the ensuing controversy led to a commission on the integration of immigrants into Quebec society. In an ironic twist, the commission's final report included a recommendation that the crucifix be removed from the Quebec legislature.
Posted by: ryuge