Jacques Parizeau, one of the biggest backers of the sovereignty movement, wrote a column in Thursday morning's issue of the French newspaper Le Journal de Montréal that criticizes his own party.
Parizeau, who served as premier from September 1994, to January 1996, says the current PQ government goes too far with its proposed ban on overt religious symbols for employees in the public sector.
The ban would include kippas, hijabs and any larger-than-average crosses.
Parizeau writes that the separation of church and state in Quebec has long since been established, thanks to the Quiet Revolution in the 1960s.
He accuses the Quebec government of reacting to a growing fear of Islam and its spread.
"For the most part, the only contact that most Quebecers have with the world of Islam is through these images of violence, repeated over and over: wars, riots, bombs, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Boston marathon ... The reaction is obvious: We'll have none of that here!" he writes in Le Journal.
Parizeau says that kind of approach solves nothing.
Instead, he suggests that the PQ limit its proposed charter to an affirmation of the separation between church and state.
As for the controversy over the wearing of religious symbols, Parizeau writes that the ban should only apply to police, prosecutors, judges and anyone in a position of authority.
"I wouldn't go any further than that for the time being."
Parizeau also criticizes the government's decision to leave the crucifix that hangs above the Speaker's chair in Quebec's national assembly. The government has defended its decision to keep the cross in place, saying it's part of the province's history.
Parizeau writes, however: "And the crucifix at the national assembly? Let's hope that next summer, the speaker of the national assembly, after consulting discreetly with the parties, will move it elsewhere in the building."
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