The Niqab Is Hijacking Canadian Elections

Posted by in Articles en anglais

By S. Hesam Houryaband.

One of the most delicate, yet irrelevant topics in the 2015 Canadian federal elections has the potential to divert attention from real issues facing Canada and Canadians. The subject of niqab has been a recurring point of discussion in almost all of the televised debates between the heads of political parties, with candidates showing vague to firm stances on the matter.

Throughout the years, Canada and Canadians have accommodated millions of immigrants with various cultural and religious backgrounds. There is a general tolerance for immigrants and their customs in the greater part of Canada. Immigrants as well, have for many years adapted to Canadian laws and culture. Yet, a thorny issue of covering the face, practiced by a handful of women in all of Canada, has divided the nation for recent years.

The fact is, even amongst Muslims, it is a small minority who practice wearing the niqab, and unlike popular perception, there is nothing mentioned of it in the Quran, or mainstream Islamic teachings. In fact, it is a cultural and customary practice adhered to by the most extremist of Islamic followers.

In 2009, the Muslim Canadian Congress issued a statement which called for the ban on wearing of niqab and burqa (head to toe covering). The MCC and the general Canadian Muslims understand that this ritual is far opposing to Canadian values. This is not to say that Canada is against the practice of wearing hijab (head coverings) by Muslims, but that the practice of extremist customary and religious traditions will in turn push Canada and Canadians to adopt more extremist views and policies towards religious practices, and immigrants in general.

Furthermore, it must be understood by immigrants, Muslim or otherwise, that by choosing to immigrate to Canada they must understand the cultural and religious values of the country. They must clearly understand that although there are freedoms of religious practices granted to them by Canadian laws (much more than their countries of origin), yet certain secular practices and values should not be overlooked.

As for the main issue at hand, and as pointed out by some of the political rivals in the debates, it is unfortunate to see that Mr. Harper has chosen to “address” the issue at this particular point in time, after all the years he has had to deal with it. It is evident that the niqab issue is being used as a political Trojan horse by the Conservatives to gain the highest amounts of Canadian votes on a heated issue which a lot of Quebecers and Canadians have passionate views on. The Conservative party is deliberately diverting attention from greater issues such as the economy and foreign policies, to play on Canadians sentiments.

It is obvious that none of the other heads of political parties are in favor of enforcing the niqab, though perhaps it would have helped if they had taken a more apparent stance on the matter. But they clearly understand the game which is played by the Conservatives, and perhaps choose not to be drawn into it.

Nevertheless, it is important for the Liberals and the NDP to once and for all clarify their stance on the subject to put the matter to rest and show that they have actual political and economic policies for Canada, and that they have a plan by replacing the Conservatives.