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Keffiyeh ban keeps Kitchener woman from entering Queen’s Park

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A Palestinian woman from Kitchener is speaking out after she was denied entry into Queen’s Park over a cultural piece of clothing.

On Monday, Beisan Zubi drove from Kitchener to Queen’s Park to attend question period, but was turned away by security because of her keffiyeh.

“I was incredulous to be quite honest,” Zubi told CTV News. “I was born maybe a 15 minute walk away from Queen’s Park, I’ve been very involved in politics ever since my first job.”

Keffiyehs are traditional scarves commonly worn in Arab cultures, including Palestinian people.

The garment has been worn in solidarity for Palestine. House Speaker Ted Arnott recently instituted a ban on keffiyehs in a move to keep them from being worn as a political statement.

“Security asked me ‘is that a keffiyeh?’ and I said ‘yes, do you like it?’ and [they] said ‘they’re banned’”, Zubi said.

In a public statement Premier Doug Ford said he does not support the House Speaker’s decision as “it needlessly divides the people of our province.” He called on Speaker Arnott to reverse the ban immediately.

The House Speaker said he would remove the ban if the legislature unanimously backed an NDP motion to reverse it, but the motion failed after Ontario PC MPP Robin Martin voted against it. The NDP brought a second motion forward which also failed.

“The idea that a Palestinian, an Ontario Palestinian can’t even enter into Queen’s Park while wearing her mother’s scarf that she’s had longer than I’ve been alive,” Zubi said. “It’s just discrimination.”

Arab Canadian Lawyers Association president Dania Majid was denied entry into the legislature if she wasn’t willing to remove her keffiyeh. On Tuesday she told CTV News the ban forced her to move her meeting with NDP leader Marit Stiles outdoors.

“The matter is in the government’s hands and what they want to signal to Ontarians,” Majid said. “Do they want to tell Ontarians of all political backgrounds, stripes, cultures that a single person can decide whether they’re welcomed or unwelcomed in Queen’s Park.”

While some believe keffiyehs are worn as a political ploy, Zubi said she’s never worn her scarves for that reason.

“So many people say ‘well I’ve never seen this before’, were you looking for it before?” Zubi said. “I’ve been wearing mine for a very long time. It’s not this new thing, it’s not a fad, it’s not a trend.

The Arab Canadian Lawyers Association is calling on MPPs of all parties to listen to their constituents and find a path to unanimous consent for ban reversal.

Zubi said she plans on filing a charter challenge to reverse the ban which she believes violates her rights and freedoms. She adds she will not return to Queen’s Park until she can freely wear her keffiyeh into the legislature.

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