With just one week to go before the federal elections, the debate over the niqab is raging from coast to coast. The niqab has now become the central focus of the election, eclipsing the economy.
While the Liberals and NDP firmly support the right of Muslim women to wear the Islamic garb which covers the entire body except for the eyes, the Conservative Party, backed by 80% of Canadians, staunchly opposes allowing women to swear an oath of allegiance to Canada while covered from head to toe.
On October 9, 2015, CTV News interviewed Tarek Fatah – a secular Muslim Canadian writer, liberal activist and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress who advocates for gay rights, separation of religion and state, opposes sharia law and advocates for a liberal, progressive form of Islam. The interview focused on whether the niqab should be worn while taking an oath of citizenship and whether it should possibly be banned from in the public sector altogether, as is the case in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Tunisia, Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Throughout the election campaign, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, backed by the CBC and Toronto Star who openly crusade against Harper, accused the Prime Minister Harper of playing the politics of division and using the niqab as a weapon of “mass distraction”.
When asked whether Fatah ever imagined that the niqab will become one of the top election issues, Fatah replied that sooner or later it had to happen because pushing the niqab is a very concerted move from Saudi Arabia right across the world where they have imposed their version of Islam. According to Fatah, whenever anyone dares to criticize the Saudi version of Islam, that person is immediately labelled as “Islamophobic”. “Every Muslim that I know knows that the niqab has nothing to do with Islam. Nowhere in the Koran is it mentioned that the head or face has to be covered. This is being pushed by the radicals as a way of showing their middle finger to non-Muslims and it is being conducted by radical female Muslim groups who are funded by Saudi Arabia”.
The niqab controversy centers around Zunera Ishaq, a Pakistani woman who aggressively fought a series of legal battles while she was still a permanent resident, and who successfully sued the Canadian government for her “religious right” to wear the niqab during a citizenship swearing-in ceremony. On Friday, October 8 Ishaq became a Canadian citizen by taking the oath with her face covered, thus outraging a huge number of Canadians who believe that it was a political statement which goes against Canadian values.
When asked what he thinks about the Federal Court overturning the ban on the niqab in Citizenship Court, which was imposed by the Conservative government in 2011, Fatah said he’s disappointed with the decision. “This woman did not act alone. She has a large Islamist group behind her and this non-Canadian has single-handedly invoked “white guilt” to change Canadian laws and regulations and blackmailed the mainstream press, the judiciary and intelligentsia into accommodating something that has nothing to do with Islam”.
“This [the niqab] is an Islamo-fascist symbol” he told the anchor. Fatah also explained that even in the most conservative Muslim countries – such as Iran and Pakistan (where he grew up) nobody wears the niqab. Recently, the Saudis have been pumping billions of dollars into North American mosques, and according to Fatah, Zunera Ishaq is not “some innocent Rosa Park human rights activist sitting at the back of the bus. She is at the front of the bus and she is showing the middle finger to the rest of Canada. And if we counter that, we will be accused by someone of being Islamophobic.”
Recent polls showed that more than 80% of Canadians say they have an issue with the niqab. In Quebec, opposition to the niqab skyrocketed to over 90% and Fatah attributes the NDP’s slide in Quebec to its support for the niqab, which goes against French secularism.
“Zunera Ishaq is not being honest. She is pretending to be a victim. She is not a victim. We (Canadians) are a victim. In the last 1,000 years, there is not a single painting, etching or evidence that covering the face has anything to do with Islam. In the desert even the camel covers the face, and you take the desert culture and contempt for everyone else and introduce Sharia [Islamic] law to Canada by someone who is posing as a victim.”
When asked whether he agrees with the NDP and Liberal parties’ accusations that the Conservatives are playing politics of division, he said that in his opinion it is the NDP and Liberals who are playing politics of division. “They are fighting each other to get the Muslim vote and they think that catering to the lowest common denominator of what a Muslim should look like they will gather the support.”
“I have bad news for them. 90% of Muslims would never even talk to someone who wears the niqab.” To watch the interview click here.
Ilana Shneider is the co-editor of CIJnews and the founding executive director of Canada-Israel Friendship Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the mutually beneficial, long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural ties between Canada and Israel. She can be reached at email@example.com
The Niqab is a symbol of oppression, of chattel, of property, of mistrust and in western cultures suggests deception. As for personal choice, dress as you choose, however a mask of any kind is no means of identifying oneself and holds no place at an citizenship ceremony. It is personal choice masquerading as religious freedom.