Author: elisabeth sahlmueller – contributor
Recently, much debate has come up in Canadian politics over whether or not women should be allowed to wear the niqab at Canadian Citizenship ceremonies. This concern became a major distraction tactic for the Conservative Party, which likely aided their decrease in popularity, because other pressing concerns received very little attention.
It’s sad that although we live in the 21st century, in a country prided on being Multicultural, our government’s policies often reflect a different attitude. Personally, I don’t understand why wearing the niqab causes such a problem, especially since it does not harm anyone. I strongly believe that women should be allowed to wear the niqab at their Canadian Citizenship ceremony.
The niqab is often viewed as being a negative, oppressive and barbaric clothing item. However, this is not true. If it was an oppressive article of clothing, I think it is likely that women would remove it the moment they stepped into Canada and they would not fight for the right to wear it at their citizenship ceremony. It is wrong for people who know very little about a topic to make up rhetoric and then use it to judge another culture.
I agree with what Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party leader (and Prime Minister Elect) had to say about this issue.
“Cloaking an argument about what women can wear in the language of feminism has to be the most innovative perversion of liberty that the Conservatives have invented in a while. It is a cruel joke to claim that you are liberating people from oppression by dictating what they can and cannot wear.”
For many Muslim women, they made the decision to wear the niqab on their own. One example of this being a Canadian Muslim by the name of Zunera, who decided she wanted to wear the niqab when she was a young teenager. Her parents never made her, but she wanted to wear one as a way to express her religion.
“No man ordered her to wear it. So no man should order her to take it off.”
Most Muslim women feel the same way. They chose to wear a niqab for religious expression, as well as to represent their ethnic identity. At the same time, they understand that there are certain circumstances, like while driving or going through airport security when they will need to temporarily remove it.
If our government bans the niqabs, why stop there? Why not also ban other cultural outfits, like Irish and Scottish kilts, kippahs, or saris as well. The majority of Canadians are foreigners, if not directly, then through their ancestors. Multiculturalism has had a huge impact on Canadians even before 1867, when Canada became a country. There is no “Canadian outfit” and there likely never will be, so people should be able to wear what they want.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Conservative Party have complained over people’s clothing or religious beliefs. During the early 1900’s, many Doukhobor left Russia and came over to Canada. They were a religious group who branched off the mainstream Christian belief and came here for land and religious freedom. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Canadian government took away a large portion of their land and tried to make their children attend local school. In response, a radical group called Sons of Freedom rebelled by holding nude protests. Parallels can be made between the current niqab issue and the Doukhobors (albeit very different) as the government is dictating what Canadians can and cannot do.
Now that the Liberals are in power, hopefully Justin Trudeau will not enforce the banning of niqabs at citizenship ceremonies and will allow women to wear what they want without having to feel discriminated against. We should all take the advice on liberty that Nelson Mandela once said: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
We live in a modern age people, so let’s get with the times and leave our cultural prejudices behind.