Canadian Education Minister Jean-François Roberge dwindled his fanbase this past weekend after one comment targeting Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.
The minister and Yousafzai met on Friday in France during sessions revolving around access to education and international development - a meeting that's part of the G7 Summit that will be taking place this August in France.
Roberge uploaded a photo on Twitter with the activist, under which he received a question from journalist Salim Nadim Valji. The latter asked the minister about what would his response be if Yousafzai wished to teach in Quebec. Roberge's reply? It would be an honor, but she has to remove her headscarf.
Though he made it clear that it would be an honor indeed, the veil would still be a major deal-breaker, "Because like in other open and tolerant countries, teachers can't wear religious symbols while they exercise their functions," he explained.
Both the photo the official posted with the young activist and his response to the question about her teaching in Quebec caused quite the stir online.
Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban militants in 2012 for going to school. This incident propelled her activism - centered around young girls' rights to education - worldwide. So for her to be barred from teaching while wearing her headscarf comes with a sting.
People who criticized the photo couldn't understand why Roberge would post it online despite the fact that the city he serves recently passed Bill 21, a legislation that "prohibits civil servants in positions of authority — including teachers — from wearing religious symbols while at work."
Those who criticized his response to the question felt he was being hypocritical, hailing Yousafzai's work and discrediting her for wearing the veil all at once.
"Asserting rights by suppressing rights is never the way to go"
"With @Malala we get the the proof that the obstacle against free and independent women is not Islam... It's authoritarian men"
Just a reminder that thousands of women face this impossible choice every day
Bans on Islamic head veils are on the rise in the West
Quebec isn't the only Western city to have issued a ban meant to target women who wear the veil. France has long targeted veiled women, suspending them from "schools and colleges for wearing the garment."
In 2011, the country also banned Islamic face coverings (niqabs and burqas) in all public spaces. Though it's considered the most vigilant in passing laws against the Islamic head and face coverings, France isn't alone in issuing bans against them.
Earlier this year, Austrian MPs approved a law aimed at banning the headscarf in primary schools. The decision comes two years after the country enforced a burqa ban, prohibiting Muslim women from wearing the outer garment used to cover themselves.