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Picture of Quebec education minister with Malala stirs controversy

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TWITTER/@JFROBERGEQC
TWITTER/@JFROBERGEQC
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A picture of Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge with veiled education campaigner Malala has stirred controversy, as the Canadian province recently adopted a law barring teachers and other civil servants from wearing religious symbols.

The Canadian official posted the picture on its Twitter account, hailing a "beautiful encounter with Nobel Peace Prize Malala Yousafzai to discuss access to education and international and international development."

The Tweet immediately triggered angry reactions from social media users, with many slamming the minister's "hypocrisy".

"Even with her Nobel and her international fame, she wouldn't be good enough the way she is to teach in your schools. She would have to become something she's not just to be accepted by you," one tweet read.

"I hope you told her she wouldn't be welcome to teach in schools here because of her ostentatious headscarf? Did you tell her she was dangerous for children's freedom of conscience?" another Twitter user wrote.

Asked how he would respond if Yousfazai wanted to become a teacher in Quebec, Roberge said: "I would certainly tell her that it would be an immense honour and that in Quebec, as is the case in France (where we are now) and in other open and tolerant countries, teachers cannot wear religious symbols in performing their duties."

The new legislation banning public sector employees from wearing religious symbols during work hours was introduced earlier in the week, drawing criticism from some public figures, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“It is unthinkable to me that in a free society we would legitimize discrimination against citizens based on their religion,” Trudeau said.

But according to a poll commissioned by Quebec's government in March this year, 69% of the province's citizens were in favour of the ban for education staff.

The law exempts government employees and civil servants who already wore religious symbols before the legislation was passed.