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The weak and uninspiring case against the niqab

Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper and the niqab


 
Vince Talotta/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Vince Talotta/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Less than 48 hours after a speech from the Liberal leader re-energized outstanding questions about religious freedom, national citizenship and women’s rights, the Conservative side sent up two backbenchers to convey objections. Objections not quite to any of that, but to Justin Trudeau’s understanding of analogy

But as Conservative MP Mark Adler stood just before question period and conveyed one complaint about the use of “Nazi-era comparisons,” NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, seated across the aisle, pointed in the general direction of Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney. It was Blaney, of course, who just a day earlier had invoked the Holocaust to explain his anti-terror bill’s new limit on expression.

The applicability of the Nazi-era reference might thus be in the eye of the beholder; one man’s suitable reference to the era of Hitler is another man’s outrageously proportioned comparison.

But any debate about the appropriate use of historical analogy is little more than a sideshow; except perhaps as a segue to a discussion about who here is being more divisive, even if that’s not quite what is at issue. Tone and manners matter and how a politician comports himself is worth consideration and how both Justin Trudeau and the Conservatives respectively got to this point could be justifiably studied, but style is still secondary to substance. Even when what we are talking about is an article of clothing.

At issue here is the niqab. Along with it comes everything that is and has been loaded onto that garment—the ban that was invoked at citizenship ceremonies three years ago, the Federal Court ruling that struck down that ban, the government’s decision to appeal and Trudeau’s decision to place the niqab at the centre of a strident and accusatory speech.

But for all else that might be said about this week and this moment, there is this: the case for banning the niqab from citizenship ceremonies is weak and uninspiring.

“Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister made more alarming statements yesterday on the rights and freedoms of Canadians,” Trudeau said yesterday when it was his turn. “Can he please explain to Canada’s half a million Muslim women why he said their chosen faith is anti-women?”

The Prime Minister attempted to parse himself.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said, “of course I said no such thing.”

Fair enough. Harper’s comments of Monday did not really criticize the entire Muslim faith. Trudeau was embellishing in his retelling.

Of the wearing of the niqab by a new citizen during the swearing of the official oath, the Prime Minister said this: “Why would Canadians, contrary to our own values, embrace a practice at that time that is not transparent, that is not open, and frankly is rooted in a culture that is anti-women?”

Harper might’ve taken the Liberal leader’s question as an opportunity to explain more closely what he meant by a “culture that is anti-women,” but instead he proceeded to repeat the complaints his backbenchers had aired just moments earlier about Trudeau’s choice of analogy.

If the Prime Minister is interested in a discussion of women’s rightful attire, the Internet would be happy to have it with him. Beyond the hashtag, there are various questions. On what basis can the niqab be said to be anti-women? Is the niqab somehow different in this regard from other religiously inspired forms of dress? A small survey of niqab-wearing Canadian women that was published in 2013 suggested various personal reasons for the choice. Is it not possible for a woman to wear a niqab without somehow submitting to oppression or some kind of anti-women sentiment?

With his second intervention, Justin Trudeau pushed further and deeper.

“Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister also said yesterday that religious freedoms should be overruled because almost all Canadians do not support the wearing of a niqab,” the Liberal leader said, venturing that Harper had been in charge of Reform party policy when the party voted against allowing RCMP officers to wear turbans. “Twenty-five years later, why does the Prime Minister still insist that the majority should dictate the religious rights of minorities?”

Rather than quibble with the Liberal leader’s version of his position, Harper seemed to endorse it, quoting first from two Muslim organizations that support the government’s position on the niqab.

“These are not the views only of the overwhelming majority of Canadians, they are the views of the overwhelming majority of moderate Muslims,” the Prime Minister declared. “It is up to the leader of the Liberal party to explain why he is so far outside that mainstream.”

Actually, it is probably still for the Prime Minister to explain why popular sentiment should decide the legitimacy of a claim to religious freedom.

That we would put such things to a vote seems a problematic idea, but popular support might at least be more tangible than anything else the government can claim in this dispute.

It would still seem to be the case that the government’s lawyers tried to tell a Federal Court judge that the ban on the niqab during the oath was not quite a ban, but rather that “citizenship judges are free not to apply it”—Paul Daly, a professor at the University of Montreal, has written an interesting legal analysis of this point.

That would seem to wobble any claim to an absolute principle. But even if that is put aside, what sort of necessity or principle is being claimed here?

As a practical matter, there would seem to be other options for either confirming someone’s identity (by asking a woman to unveil in private) or ensuring she has said the oath (by positioning a niqab-wearing woman within earshot of a citizenship judge). To expand on a hypothetical raised by Justice Boswell in his ruling, the government would seem to make special allowances for deaf-mute applicants, including the hiring of an interpreter.

Oh, but if we allow a woman to swear the oath while wearing a niqab, then what about some fellow from the KKK who might insist on wearing his white hood while he pledges allegiance? Well, it would at least be fun to see a Klansman try to claim religious freedom. Emmett Macfarlane has taken a useful run at this analogy, and I’ll thank him for also pointing me in the direction of the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem. Anyone who insists on the Klansman comparison should at least have to explain how said Klansman could meet the standards set out there for a claim of religious belief.

On the topic of religious freedom and the law, Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony has also been invoked as evidence that “religious freedom is not absolute.” Fair enough. But that ruling also notes the presence of a “pressing and substantial goal.” What precisely would the pressing and substantial goal here be? (I’m similarly thankful to Emmett for pointing me to that ruling.)

(I suspect the Supreme Court’s ruling on testifying in court while wearing a niqab might also be of relevance.)

In his interview with Maclean’s this week, Jason Kenney, the minister who directed the ban on the niqab, asserted the principle “that a public citizenship ceremony has to be performed publicly.” “Publicly” in this case would seem to be defined not simply as existing in public, but having to show one’s nose and mouth in public. (Fun question for your next dinner party: Is a woman in a niqab behaving publicly when she walks down the street?) The regulations for citizenship ceremonies do allow for a private swearing of oath in certain situations, “such as terminally ill candidates unable to travel or other urgent or extenuating circumstances,” I’m told by a government official. But regardless, we are being asked to put a philosophical or symbolic standard at the forefront.

If identity can otherwise be confirmed and the reciting of the oath can be otherwise heard, the value of unveiling during the communal recitation of the oath is entirely symbolic. And while there is something to be said for symbolism in the life of a nation, it is problematic, as with public opinion, to put that ahead of a claim to religious freedom.

It is on other symbolic grounds that the niqab is otherwise objected to: that it is a symbol of oppression, perhaps even wrong-headedly adopted. You are surely free to make that argument, but you are turning your own argument on its head if you then suggest that society should dictate a woman’s attire without a pressing reason for doing so.

That’s “not the way we do things here“? What does that even mean? We don’t make allowances for religious freedom? We don’t tolerate almost all choices of personal dress or undress? We reserve the right to readily impose our understanding of equality on a woman’s discretion? We set aside religious freedom for symbolic reasons?

It most certainly is the way we do things here insofar as we allow women, seemingly with some exceptions made for the purposes of confirming identity, to go about their time in this country wearing a niqab if they so desire.

If there are no practical or procedural grounds to justify demanding the niqab be lifted during the saying of the oath then a ban might be doomed in law. But even if it is entirely down to symbolic meaning and even if a desire for symbolic value shouldn’t be sufficient to limit religious freedom, we might still debate the symbolism.

If we are to officially accept the wearing of the niqab during the oath, as we seem to have done before Kenney decided we shouldn’t, what might that symbolize? We could say it symbolizes some public concession to oppression or segregation.

“To segregate one group of Canadians or allow them to hide their faces, to hide their identity from us precisely when they are joining our community is contrary to Canada’s proud commitment to openness and to social cohesion,” Kenney said three years ago. But in this case that openness and cohesion would impose a limit on religious freedom, and a seemingly unnecessary one at that.

We could then say that allowing the niqab at the moment of the oath demonstrates tolerance and freedom—a willingness to accept that in this country you are basically free to dress and express yourself as you see fit so long as it does not threaten the general good or inherent rights of others.

“Freedom in a broad sense embraces both the absence of coercion and constraint, and the right to manifest beliefs and practices,” Justice Brian Dickson once wrote. “Freedom means that, subject to such limitations as are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, no one is to be forced to act in a way contrary to his beliefs or his conscience.”

We could say that the wearing of the niqab when an individual chooses to become a citizen of Canada does not threaten the safety, order, health or morals of this country. That so long as those things are maintained, we should make some attempt to accommodate each other. That we are secure enough to accept that some might choose to wear it. That we are stronger not for demanding the niqab’s removal, but for accepting that we must allow someone the choice to wear it.

There might be some rhetorically useful historical analogy to attempt here, but my knowledge of history isn’t what it should be and I’ve learned by watching politicians that the odds of sticking the landing on an analogy are low. In lieu of history, we might make do with practicalities, legalities and principles.


 

The weak and uninspiring case against the niqab

  1. What a load of rubbish. The niqab cannot be equated to any other piece of religious gear. It is not the turban nor the kippah, not the hijab nor the crucifix, Being a religious symbol is not the issue; all of these other things do not effectively remove someone from the surrounding community by making them invisible.

    Instead, the issue is this. 1. If a woman chooses (without coercion or brainwashing, which I would argue is less than common) to wear the niqab, she is very much saying that there is a wall between her and the rest of Canadian society. She wants no part in it. Therefore, she has no valid reason to become a Canadian. 2. If the woman is forced to wear it, the wearing of the niqab is a form of abuse, and this should never be tolerated.

    By its very nature, the niqab exists to put a woman in her place. It is disgusting. it is un-Canadian. And all the people who are defending it, obviously don’t really care that it is nothing more than a very obvious form of misogyny. Shame!

    • Congratulations. We know your opinion of the niqab. The problem is that your opinion doesn’t matter. What matters are the opinions of the women wearing the niqab and the laws of this country in support of the the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

      • The problem is that your opinion doesn’t matter.

        Yes, apparently in a democracy, only the opinions of the correct people matter. If you object to your culture being invaded by hostile aliens your opinion doesnt matter.

    • I agree most heartedly as do all the Canadians I know.

      • You have a very limited social circle. Hey, maybe you are also not part of mainstream Canadian society! You are gonna have to go…

    • Hey, I think you are on to something. People who are anti social (you know, the kind of people who want a wall between themselves and the rest of society) should not be permitted to become citizens. So why don’t we just make everyone take a personality quiz to see where they fit on that scale. And while we are at it, perhaps we should start kicking out all those people who live alone and work from home and who have no friends. Clearly they are not interested in being part of mainstream society.

      And let’s not stop there! There are communities who do not want their children to receive a public education so give them home schooling. Some of these communities do that because they do not want their children influenced by mainstream education or society. So we better kick them out too.

      And don’t even get me started on the Hutterites!

    • Your claim that a woman wants no part in Canadian society because she covers her face is baseless and ignorant. You have no claim to her agency to dress as she pleases.

      The lack of a capacity to even attempt to understand a culture different from your own is illustrative of your bigotry. I am a woman and I find your comments misogynistic and insulting.

  2. In 2009, in The Toronto Star, the Muslim Canadian Congress was identified as the group in this headline: ‘Muslim lobby group urges Ottawa to ban burkas, niqabs’.

    From that October 7th article: “The Muslim Canadian Congress called on the federal government to prohibit the two garments in order to prevent women from covering their faces in public – a practice the group said has no place in a society that supports gender equality.

    “To cover your face is to conceal your identity,” congress spokeswoman Farzana Hassan said in a telephone interview, describing the issue as a matter of public safety, since concealing one’s identity is a common practice for criminals.

    The tradition of Muslim women covering their faces in public is a tradition rooted more in Middle Eastern culture than in the Islamic faith, Hassan added.

    There is nothing in any of the primary Islamic religious texts, including the Qur’an, that requires women to cover their faces, she said – not even in the controversial, ultra-conservative tenets of Sharia law.

    Considering the fact that women are in fact forbidden from wearing burkas in the grand mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, it hardly makes sense that the practice should be permitted in Canada, she said.

    “If a government claims to uphold equality between men and women, there is no reason for them to support a practice that marginalizes women.”

    Then, a year later on March 27, 2010, the Globe and Mail had this headline: “Ignatieff backs Quebec veil ban”.

    So, in 2009 and 2010 both a prominent Muslim Canadian lobby group and the Liberal Party were against face coverings. I have searched and found no record of outrage or speeches on the matter from Justin Trudeau, a Liberal MP at that time.

    The article from 2009 lays out a strong argument worth reading: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2009/10/07/muslim_lobby_group_urges_ottawa_to_ban_burkas_niqabs.html

    • Some Protestants believe Catholics are not proper Christians, and vice versa.

      See, we live in this country where the majority do not get to dictate the faith of the minority. Even the majority of Muslims do not get to dictate the faith of a smaller sect within that religion.

      Or maybe you were not aware that Christianity has many different sects, many of which disagree with the others. I was once told by a fundamental Christian that I was going to burn in hell if I continued to insist on attend rock concerts.

  3. A niqab is not a religious garment. It’s cultural….and was being worn long before Islam was around.

    Our govt is in the ridiculous position of attacking a fashion statement.

    • Don’t get me started on them men with big long beards down to their belly buttons, oh I forgot, they’re men. Actually, I don’t mean to sound like i’m being sexist, but I find the niqab to be more mysterious, in a good way, than offensive.

      • No need to get Duck Dynasty involved in this. Nor ZZ Top for that matter.

    • That’s too easy a comment. The Burqa is a tribal garnment that simply has no use here in Canada. You can use the ridiculous argument that it is a fashion statement, which you know it is not.

  4. This just a misguided journalist trying to create full employment. This discussion is about traditional Canadian values that require unhidden faces and therefore if someone coming to our country and wishes to become a Canadian then please join our society and not bring your society to us. If you want to be a bandit then OK I understand why you want to hide your face but if not, take off your mask.

    • Feel free to tell me what traditional Canadian values are.

      My traditional Canadian values include honouring the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Do yours?

      • Religious freedom enshrined in a constitution that most Canadians from sea to shining sea, don’t even know the first word of, does not allow one person or faith to enslave a women of the same faith through brainwashing. The prophet said that women are a man’s chattel, does that make it true by our constitution. If I start a church and preach that I am entitle to interpret the Bible in such a way as I can kill my daughter for adultery, am I practicing my religious freedom – no – I am committing murder. Congruently, if my religion allows me to suppress my daughters expression of self and full human freedom, and I program her to believe this from when she is 1 year old, then somehow I am protected – because I am just practicing my religious rights to stifle my women. Well done constitution. Eureka – there is a flaw.

        • So the best way to help all these women who are enslaved by their religion and their niqab is to make sure they stay in the countries that enslave them?

          • We dont want them here or the men they come with.

          • Gayle1 makes these amazing leaps in logic that also defy common sense.

      • My traditional Canadian values include honouring the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Do yours?

        That piece of legal garbage imposed on us 30 years ago to give the judiciary disproportional power without actually protecting any rights? Gross. It has nothing to do with “traditional canadian values”.

    • Ya, I remember that course in high school. You know the one, right? Where the teacher read the chapter in the citizenship texts about Canadian values requiring unhidden faces?

  5. Well done Aaron Wherry. You couldn’t possibly climb up Justin’s derriere any further. As anyone with any religious knowledge could tell you, and the other commentators herein have, the niqab is not religious. If you are so blind to Stockholm’s syndrome en-mass, you are little qualified in the art of rational thinking. As a liberal, I am appalled by Mr. Trudeau on this subject. Some neo-liberals think that an argument that simply points to a single well sounding argument – objection to niqabs is equivalent to telling Canadian women what to wear and therefore is wrong (end of argument – you win) – are missing the real human rights issue. Shame on you Aaron.

    • Trudeau is just pandering to the immigrant vote, its all about his power. Step out of the dark ages ladies, this is Canada and its the 21st century, you can have an identity, career and drive a car here!

      • Well actually, they can’t. Because Jason Kenny and Stephen Harper do not think they belong in this country because they choose to wear a niqab.

          • You certainly have the right name, average ape. I bet you were never at a immigration ceremony in your life, like a lot who gripe about things they know nothing about, ignorance is blind.

    • I’m not a fan of everything this author prints, but I would never question Mr. Wherry’s respect for the rule and law of our democracy, he is the epitome of democracy in this country, and I don’t think this article is as much about Trudeau as it is about his unwavering respect, for the democracy of our country. Democracy is stamped on Mr. Wherry’s forehead, and he is one of few champions of it, like Michael Harris, and Gerry Caplin.

  6. The beheading of a gang leader in Saudi Arabia on Thursday raised the number of executions carried out this year to 44, already more than half the total for 2014. Harper loses his mind at the thought of a woman covering her head in a scarf in Canada but has no problem doing a $15-billion arms dea with Saudi Arabia. a country where women are forced to wear niqabs, have no tights, are treated worse than goats and where they behead people like it’s going out of style. A few beheadings in Iraq and Harper’s head explodes and then it’s the old “they’ll soon be over here if we don’t stop them over there” scare tactics. But over 44 beheadings so far this year in this country we do billion dollar arms deals with and it’s no problem, nothing to see here and business as usual and btw we couldn’t care less about what people wear in your “culture” over there so long as we can have arms deals. What a bunch of Harpercrites we have running this country.

    • You seem to miss the clear difference between making policy for our country here, now, and for our children; and recognizing that that is their country. Yes those statistics you point out are horrible, but letting Russia get the arms deal does more damage than Canada getting it and garnering a small measure of diplomatic pull. Your emotional reaction colors your ability to see that there are only two choices here: a terrible decision and a slightly less terrible decision. I’m afraid your passion cannot create a magic wand to wave and solve all the atrocities. The real world out there is horrible place, be thankful that your backyard – Canada – is so well protected from it – by occasionally rational politicians.

  7. It appears that Maclean’s has the weak and uninspiring argument. Contrary to the recommendation to “make do” with practicalities, legalities and principles to reduce the issues of women who wear the niqab, hijab or burkas – let’s be clear.

    This is not about religious freedom, tolerance or living in a society that embraces a melting pot culture. Canada like many other Western nations is having to deal with the reality of radical political/cultural/religious Islam that seeks total control and would have sharia law supercede Canada’s existing charters. Islam’s bottom line is submission and total control of life to correspond to the Islamic religeous Quran. The niqab, hijab and burka are a prime example of this by demonstrating another aspect to how Islam seeks to control – in this case women.

    I’m disappointed that Maclean’s would write such a one sided article.….perhaps it’s time to let Mark Steyn contribute to provide some balance……

  8. When the government can only defend this ban by invoking the Canadian “value” that they manufactured 4 years ago, and their defenders defend them by dictating the terms of this woman’s religion to her, it is pretty clear this ban was done for political purposes only. Harper is only upset because he was finally called out on his bigotry.

    • Gayle1: “…their defenders defend them by dictating the terms of this woman’s religion to her”

      EmilyOne: “Niqabs are not religious. Female genital mutilation is not Muslim Xmas trees are not christian SOME Canadians need an education.”

      Gayle 1, meet EmilyOne. Would it be too much to ask for both of you to stop posting until you figure this out?

      • Hilarious. Two people disagree so they can’t post? I guess you better stop posting too.

        • But who’s right? One of you must be, and I fear the consequence of this, once established, could rent the fabric of the universe. Regretably, I believe she gets the early nod, as her stridency despite her ignorance exceeds even yours.

          • Excuse me. According to your rules you have to stop posting.

  9. Niqabs are not religious.

    Female genital mutilation is not Muslim

    Xmas trees are not christian

    SOME Canadians need an education.

  10. Well thought as far as it goes.
    This effort to save some Muslim women from their, apparently, savage men, harms those it pretends to protect. Lets grant for a minute that there are some women in the Muslim community who are oppressed. That would be no surprise as misogyny crops up just about everywhere. And now lets assume that for some of these women wearing the niqab is one part of their oppression. This would also be pretty normal as a common dimension of oppression is telling women what to look like. Now, calling attention to the niqab increases its cultural relevance. This confirms its importance as a cultural marker and inflames those who use it to oppress oppress. With this, politicians harm the most vulnerable among those they claim to protect.
    Harper and his crew may be many things. Stupid is not one of them. So, lets assume this ‘perverse’ effect is known. They, then, are knowingly acting against the interests of the most vulnerable. Back to ‘these folks are not stupid.’ This move makes no sense on its own terms. The only option I see is that the position of a group of vulnerable women is being worsened for political gain.

    Just to anticipate one line of critique…wearing heels does not necessarily mean a woman is oppressed. That does not mean, however, that the hobbling of women is never a dimension of their oppression.

  11. I am a new Canadian citizen originally from Mexico. Over there, under the law, we reject any kind of monarchy and we are not allowed to hold any title (the Spaniards living there at the time had to resign to it). We executed the last emperor by firing squad back in the 1800’s. We do not understand the existence of a monarchy because of our past, but when I first came to this country, I knew I was going to pledge allegiance to the Queen and it was ok for me. Why? because I wanted to move to a new country where more important things are taken into account. We immigrants often forget about the reasons behind our desire to immigrate to a more developed country. Religion is one of them, but many people do not want to look at the reality that the poorest countries in the world are the ones where religion plays and important role in their lives.

    In my opinion, many immigrants are abusing the very same laws that are allowing them into this country. I read about a couple of cases (one in Toronto and the other one here in Montreal) about Muslim women demanding their neighbors to vacate the building pool because the were not allowed to swim among other men. In Montreal the judge voted against and in Toronto in favor. Why? because the building in Toronto had more Muslim people living in it. This is just a micro sample of what could happen in a country where democracy rules. First it will be a district, then a borough and it will continue because in democracy those are the rules right? well, the rules were written with an spirit on it.

    And lets be realistic, the orthodox Jewish have similar traditions, with their women wearing wigs, but never had their faces covered.

    The bottom line is, that if you are fully aware that you are about to change your life in a country as open as Canada, and even with that you try to use that same system to have it your way, you do not deserve to be here.

    • Do you have a link to those cases, because “I heard of a case” is not particularly reliable. Nor is this particularly relevant.

      In any event, it is really cute the way you attempt to cloak your comment in legitimacy by stating you are a recent immigrant, as it that somehow gives you more credibility on this argument. You were willing to give up your aversion to swearing an oath to a monarchy so others should be willing to give up a religious practice. Because they are totally the same thing or something.

      But the very best part of your argument is the whole “if we let them do this, they will take over the whole country!” thing. Except we did “let them do this” for years, before Kenny and Harper decided it was wrong. I have yet to experience someone trying to force me to wear a niqab.

      These very same arguments were used in the 1990’s, when conservatives argued against RCMP members wearing turbans. It was silly then and it is outright stupid now.

      But thanks for proving Wherry’s point, as you and the others who have written here have done so very well. Your case is indeed, weak and uninspiring.

      • Gayle1,

        First, I did not say I hear but I read. I will look for the article and send you the link.
        Second, I was not trying to legitimate my comment by saying I am a new citizen. What i was trying to say is that you have the chance to inform yourself about the country, the rules and the society. In my case and because of my job, before coming to Canada I worked in the USA for about 4 years and, just like here, I had the chance to apply for my American residence and I did not do it because at some point I did not agree with many of their ways. I had a good experience and that was it. I was thankful for my time there.

        Finally, and again, do not put words in my mouth. I do not remember saying that “they will take over the whole country”. What I said is that in democracy, the majority decides. Taking the example of the condo pool. If you have a building with 200 apartments and form those, 120 vote for a pool ban, those are the rules, whether you like it or not.

        It is my opinion, that when you are moving into a country that is not yours, sacrifices and concessions have to be made. Quebec in particular is a more secular place, therefore I do not understand why someone whose religion beliefs are so extreme would like to live in a place that for sure is not a fit for what he or she stands.

        • If you read up on Canada, then you know religious freedom is a basic tenet of our society. You also know the Charter protects the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

      • Again, it’s not a religious pratice, and even if they want to cal it that, they can practice it in their own home.

  12. Personally I find the wearing of the niqab to be an offense against civility> However my distaste for the current federal government is far greater then any repugnance I feel toward oppressive religious garb and I am happy to see them fall on their faces over this issue. This cannot be popular with their religious freedom base. And its turning off a lot of immigrant voters who were once seduced into voting for the Harper Party by the affable Jason Kenney. Harper put his foot in it when he made the niqab an election issue.

  13. the case for banning the niqab from citizenship ceremonies is weak and uninspiring

    The proper case against the niqab is that it is an alien practice which Canadians find repulsive. End of story. We shouldnt have to justify our repulsion at these barbarians to eggheads using many pages of legalese. In fact Canadians should grow a pair and revolt against these eggheads who would impose alien and barbaric practices in our society. It is a form of assault and we should not take it lying down.

    • “Canadians should grow a pair and revolt against these eggheads”

      A guy named Pol Pot had a similar idea, everyone had a grand old time . . .

      But let me check first . . . do you wear glasses??

        • Meant to be “heh”. Autocorrect…

      • Pol Pot was a communist, aka a leftwinger.

        The problem is not eggheads per se, but treacherous eggheads who impose foreign practices on a society to gain status and power.

        • “treacherous eggheads who impose foreign practices on a society to gain status and power.”

          Yes, because if you have the niqab wearers and their supporters, you’ve won the election.

    • OK. Then Harper should grow a pair and say that. If so many Canadians agree with you, he should easily win reelection.

      And yet, he, and the vast majority of his supporters trying to justify his position on the niqab are not saying what you are saying here.

      So I will give you credit for being open about this. Hopefully Harper will follow suit.

      • Then Harper should grow a pair and say that. I wish he would, I think you would be surprised by the results. Licking the boots of progressive scolds is not a winning strategy. Standing up against an alien invasion and telling the progressive losers to shove it is.

  14. Normal Canadians should understand a very basic point: you will be called racist no matter what. Look at all the articles in Macleans about how racist Winnipeg is. It’s not because of anything actually racist that happened in Winnipeg, it’s just because that’s what these people do, they get paid to call you racist.

    Like the medieval church was paid to find ever more subtle variations of sin, the progressive church is paid to find racism everywhere. And if you deny that you’re racist and that many of your friends are not white, well that just proves how racist you are and we need more money for education and awareness raising.

    So you might as well take it in stride and defend your country from muslim extremists and veiled women and all the other third world nonsense progressives want to impose on you.

  15. Unless you have forgotten, this is Canada.

    Canada has only two official languages; English and French.

    Therefore, can we refer only to; a scarf or echarpe, a shawl or chale, a veil or voilette, etc. This suggestion is more serious than you may imagine.

    No more foreign language lessons (Moderator, please note).

  16. This whole issue is a red herring. The niqab is a piece of cloth. It is worn by women from some parts of the Muslim world, in other places they wear a different garment and in some places none at all…because it is cul-tu-ral!

    From Al-Arrabiya News 13 March 2015

    “Egypt’s Grand Imam, Sheikh Mohammad Tantawi, said the face veil was not compulsory in Islam and said every head of state had the right to accept or prohibit it.

    “I have nothing to do with the French president’s decision. Every country has its own rules,” Tantawi who heads al-Azhar University, the world’s leading Sunni Islam institution, told Al Arabiya.

    Tantawi added that women who wear the burka have to abide by the rules of the country they live in, especially because it is not an obligation in Islam.

    “The traditional headscarf [hijab] is what is obligatory. This means covering the entire body except the face and hands and wearing clothes that are neither tight nor transparent,” he said.

    Now can we put this rest?

    • Sorry, but No!

      Having lived and worked in Bangladesh (86% Muslim) recently, I can attest to about 25% who do not wear a head scarf.

    • Wow. Maybe read the many many other attempts to justify Harper’s position by arguing it is not religious, and all the responses there. You’re not exactly covering new ground here…

      • I wonder, would you happen to be retarded, Gayle1, to come up with such trivial responses?

  17. The prime minister of Canada started this. The Supreme Court will end it. It was destined to fail right from the start. Why? A little document called the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    Stephen Harper has made this and his anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51, into political issues, delectably served up for the fall election. But it was a campaign strategy gone wrong. I can state with all certainty – I see this as not only wrong and ill-conceived, it is also bigotry racist.

    Yes, those are strong words but any reasonable, rational person would ask: Why would anybody, much less the leader of the federal government, make this a campaign issue? Seriously.

    Given all the other issues that of are more importance to Canadians, why would anyone do such a careless, reckless thing? I can answer that in one word: Distraction.

    When you soberly look at the OTHER issues, it becomes nauseatingly obvious – the Harper Conservatives are essentially vulnerable on them all. Mr. H realizes that his campaign promises and spending – aka throwing crumbs, is too little, too late.

    Not many years ago, one of my brothers was brand new recruit at the training depot in Regina, and the controversy du jour was wearing turbans in the RCMP. Over 150,000 people signed petitions to retain the traditional RCMP dress code, and sympathetic legislators presented the results to Parliament. Conversely, Sikh leaders pointed out that turbaned Sikhs served in the British Army in two World Wars and now work in many Canadian police forces.

    “When Baltej Singh Dhillon was accepted into the RCMP, he faced a choice — serving his country or wearing his turban. He chose to fight for his religious rights. In 1990, the federal government finally removes the ban preventing Sikhs in the RCMP from wearing turbans. The decision is not without its protesters, but as Dhillon says in this CBC Television clip, “I’m willing to look these people in the eye and tell them that I’m no different from them.”

    It was in April 1989 that the RCMP commissioner recommended the prohibition against turbans be lifted. Almost a year later, Solicitor General Pierre Cadieux gives his ruling to allow turbans. During the intervening year, protests had gathered steam. Herman Bittner, who created an unflattering calendar to protest the move, says in an interview, “Am I really a racist, or am I standing up and trying to save something that you know can be lost forever?”

    Sound familiar? It should. As a Sikh, my brother was given the option to don a turban. He chose not to. In the end, my brother says you can almost count the number of Sikh officers who wear turbans on two hands.

    Like this issue, it has been blown out of proportion. Just like the PM then, Harper has decided to make this his Last Stand – his Little Bighorn if you like. Well, history tells us what happened there.

    It is unforgivable for any elected representative to agree with this ban. Any that do must be stopped. Now for all those bigots and racists out there whose sensitivities are offended – get over it. Selectively applying our Charter must not be permitted. Our Charter, whether you agree or not, was crafted and enacted to protect us all. Amendments of this nature will only happen in your little racist wet dreams.

    So, Where does this stop! Come election night folks. The prime minister of Canada started this. The voter will end this.

  18. A comparison to the deaf and terminally ill equates Islam as some sort of disability or affliction. That has such weird implications.

  19. Not ‘facing up’ to the citizenship ceremony demonstrates what is more important to some Muslims. It shows a complete disrespect to Canada and its people. If a woman cannot remove her niqab for the 5 minute public ceremony than what are we to think of her? A close relative of mine memorized and studied for two years and flushed with pride at the ceremony as she became a Canadian. She didn’t hide. Most people fear and mistrust those with masks.

    • Intolerance is what is disrespectful to Canada and its people.

  20. Trudeau and Mulchair stick to your niqab positions. Why? Following the rule of law says a lot about Canada and Canadians. We’re at war remember? Supposedly helping the very people the Conservatives and media have been fear=hate mongering Canadians over. Don’t the soldiers have enough to worry about getting shot by self proclaimed ISIS without having to worry about the allies?

    The pot has been stirred so much I really want our guys to come home. Take the money saved and give it to CSIS or humanitarian aid to Jordan/Turkey.

  21. Giving too much important to ‘religion’ is the problem. Let them have their so-called religious freedom at home, not in the street. I fear that, sooner or later, there may be a terrorist/murder attack committed by someone, a woman maybe, wearing a niqab, and then we’ll see wich way the tide of popular feeling will turn.

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