Rafia Zakaria writes: On Oct. 9, Zunaira Ishaq, an immigrant from Pakistan, finally took her citizenship oath and became a Canadian. Her refusal to take the oath without niqab, or a face veil, has been a subject of legal battle between Canada’s courts and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.
This controversy has become a backdrop for Canada’s parliamentary elections today. Having lost legal challenges that would have prevented Ishaq from taking the oath while veiled, Harper’s Conservative Party is now vowing to pursue a niqab ban during citizenship ceremonies and to consider a wider ban for all public employees if re-elected. His opponents, the Liberal Party’s Justin Trudeau and the New Democratic Party’s Thomas Mulcair, have dismissed the niqab issue as a distraction and oppose such bans.
Harper’s fear-mongering reflects Canada’s growing distance from the “respect for multiculturalism” and “freedom of religion” enshrined in its own Charter of Canadian Rights and Freedoms. A Conservative victory in today’s polls would express an endorsement of Islamophobia and a xenophobic fear of the immigrant “other.” It will also show that the country’s commitment to women’s right to choose does not extend to Muslims who wear the face veil. [Continue reading…]