Last week an unelected judge struck down a prohibition on wearing the niqab during the citizenship oath ceremony. This ban was implemented in 2011 by then Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
For those who are not familiar, the niqab is that full-face mask forced upon some Muslim women.
To be fair, the woman who challenged the policy in court claims that she wears the niqab voluntarily. But is it truly voluntary if this idea was ingrained in her mind from a young age? I think it is worth asking.
The Prime Minister was clear in expressing his displeasure with the ruling, while vowing to appeal:
“I believe, and I think most Canadians believe that it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family.”
And Prime Minister-in-waiting Justin Trudeau’s view?
"Any time a government or a leader is in a position to choose to limit minority rights of any type, there has to be a very good justification — a clear and compelling reason to do so… The reason the prime minister gave last week for appealing the court's decision around the niqab was, to my mind, not at all justifying the prime minister's decision."
If you ask me, there is hardly a better reason to “limit minority rights” than to prove identity for citizenship hearings. But this narrative is merely a sideshow. Trudeau would have you believe this is a veiled attack on religious freedom. In reality, this is about standing up to archaic cultural practices that oppress women.
Don’t just take my word for it. The Muslim Canadian Congress, a truly moderate Muslim group, says there is “no requirement in the Qu’ran for Muslim women to cover their faces.” It is no wonder columnist Tarek Fatah refers to the niqab as a “veil of lies.”
So let’s be honest. This is not about religion. It is about control, power, and oppression. As Canadians, we should not allow a whole gender to be treated as second-class citizens.
For Trudeau, this issue seems to be an extension of his dangerously naïve worldview on archaic old-world practices. Recall that Trudeau previously thought calling female genital mutilation and honour killings “barbaric” in the new citizenship guide was wrong. And let’s not forget the knots Trudeau ties himself in trying to talk about the terrorism we currently face while not mentioning the Islamist motivations.
For those not lucky enough to be born here, the granting of Canadian citizenship is not an automatic right. It is something that has to be earned and is quite special. It is only proper that citizenship judges require proof of identity, and that that proof be verified while granting this special gift to anyone.
Isn’t identity at the heart of that? Isn’t showing those in public who you are, when you are given the privilege of joining them, the keystone of all of this? Sure, currently the face can be revealed in private before the ceremony takes place. But isn’t Canada about a community? Aren’t these ceremonies public?
There are certain times when people should show their face, like when they are buying alcohol, voting, or boarding a plane. Becoming a citizen should be no different.