09/16/2013 07:46 EDT | Updated 11/16/2013 05:12 EST

Muslim woman in Quebec City told to 'change her religion'

A Muslim woman in Quebec City says she and her family were verbally assaulted, spit on and told to "change their religion” two weeks ago at a shopping centre.

Badia Senouci was shopping at the Sears in Ste-Foy with her son and husband when an older woman approached them and began insulting their religion.

“She told me, ‘Madame, change your religion,’” Senouci says.

The woman continued to insult Senouci’s religion, to which she replied, “It’s not your problem. I’m free to embrace whichever religion I want, and this is the religion that suits me,” Senouci recounts.

The woman insisted that Senouci remove her hijab, and then told her the government would soon be forcing her to remove her headscarf anyway.

Senouci says that when her 18-year-old son Ahmed intervened and asked the woman to stop harassing his mother, she spit in his face.

The son pushed the older woman in reaction. She in turn hit Senouci’s son, and then the husband when he acted to separate them, with her bag. Then, say the family, the woman appeared to feign a fall.

The woman reportedly told police responding to the call that the men were responsible for her fall.

When the police arrived, they took husband Abdelmalek Mansouri out to the cruiser for questioning. He told them them should check security cameras in the shopping centre to get the accurate version of events.

According to the husband, he was let go after police and mall security reviewed the tape.

Mansouri says everyone involved in this dispute was a victim of some sort.

“Even this woman was a victim, of her ignorance,” he says.

But, he says, the real guilty party is Pauline Marois and her Parti Québécois government.

The PQ’s proposed charter of Quebec values was released last week and drew much consternation among those who believe it’s an affront to freedom.

Thousands of people marched in a weekend demonstration in Montreal against the charter, which aims to ban overt religious symbols in the public sector.

Senouci and her family are originally from Algeria, but have lived in Quebec for 14 years.

She says this incident, and another one from earlier in the day where she was insulted while her car stopped at a light, are the first times she’s been a target while living here.

The family says the charter has already radically changed Quebecers.

She says she feels the charter and the controversy it has caused has made it socially acceptable to single out people like her.