Niqab debate: Much ado about nothing or slippery slope?
By Fred Sherwin
hard to believe that a simple face-covering could cause
so much consternation among so many people.
held back in wading into the niqab debate until I had
a chance to talk to some of my friends and associates
to gauge their views, which quite frankly have ranged
from enlightened to out and out racist.
while I understand where all the fuss is coming from,
I couldn't disagree more.
order to become a Canadian citizen you must have lived
in this country for six years; have filed an income tax
return for at least four of those six years; have an "adequate"
knowledge of at least one official language; and pass
a citizenship test demonstrating an adequate knowledge
of Canada and the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship.
done all that, they must attend a citizenship ceremony
where they must take the Citizenship Oath.
that the final step in becoming a Canadian citizen is
attending a citizenship ceremony, which is well-named
because it is largely ceremonious. Frankly, I couldn't
care less if a woman who happens to be Muslim wants to
cover her face or not. If they've met all the requirements
in attaining their Canadian citizenship, God bless them.
a non-issue to me in an election where there are hundreds
of more important issues like what should be done about
the rising racist sentiment towards Muslims in Canadian
heard the argument that allowing Muslim women to cover
their faces while taking the Citizenship Oath is a slippery
slope that will further erode the Judeo-Christian values
on which this country was founded. Forget the fact that
Judaism and Christianity share a common Abrahamic foundation
with Islam, what about the Judeo-Christian values of compassion,
empathy, and common decency, which by the way, are not
exclusive to either Christianity or Judaism.
too, am worried that the niqab issue will lead us down
a slippery slope, but I see the debate resulting in a
country that is less compassionate, less empathetic and
much more intransigent. And that to me is far worse than
getting my shorts in a not over whether or not a Muslim
woman of faith who's been living in Canada for six years;
filed her income taxes on time; and has passed a test
which 9 in 10 natural born Canadians would have difficulty
passing, where's a face covering during a citizenship
should point out that the niqab issue is just as controversial
within the Islamic community as it is among non-Muslims.
top Islamic school banned the wearing of the niqab in
2009. In modern Iran, the niqab is only worn by certain
ethnic minorities including a minority of Arab Muslims,
while in Azerbaijan, Tunisia and Turkey, where the overwhelming
majority of the population is Muslim, it has been outlawed.
in Canada, the Muslim Canadian Congress called for a ban
on both the niqab and the burka, saying that they have
no basis in Islam.
women who wear a niqab do so as an observance of their
faith within a particular Islamic denomination.
right, Islam is not a monolithic religion. Just as there
are many denominations within Christianity, there are
many denominations within Islam and some require female
members to where a niqab, especially in the presence of
like to think that we are big enough and accepting enough
as a nation to allow female members of Muslim denominations
that require the wearing of a niqab in public to take
the Citizenship Oath without forcing them to compromise
their faith and beliefs. That is what separates us from
the Frances, Belgiums and Netherlands of the world.
what is more "culturally barbaric", wearing
a niqab in public, or an entire society forcing Muslim
women of faith to live in fear and isolation for no other
reason than to satisfy our own petty fears and biases?
a rhetorical question, by the way.
fact is one woman wearing a niqab while taking the Citizenship
Oath is no more threatening to our society and values
than a Sihk wearing a turban, or a Jewish male wearing
a yamaka, or a Catholic wearing a crucifix. They are one
in the same.
anything, allowing the practice makes us all better and
strengthens a society that should take pride in being
tolerant, accepting and even welcoming of other cultures
and religions. To not allow it is to give in to ignorance,
fear and the powers that pull us apart rather than pull
choose the former.
1 a.m., Oct. 6)