People outside of Canada may not be aware, but right now the Canadian government is making a big stink about women wearing niqabs while taking the oath of citizenship. To be clear, it's not about women proving their identity before the oath, it's about them wearing the niqab while they recite the oath. According to the bizzare pronouncements of the Minister of Immigration at the time, you have to see a person's mouth to know if they are really reciting the oath or just faking it.
Because people do that. They go through all the effort to gain citizenship, just to not say the oath. It was nuts.
Anyways, Zunera Ishaq, a woman who wears niqab went to court to challenge the change in regulations allowing citizenship judges to enforce the ban, and a judge ruled in her favour.
The Prime Minister responded with a hissy fit, and the government is appealing the ruling. The Prime Minister said it was unCanadian for someone to want to cover their face, and said the niqab comes from a culture that is "anti-woman".
Some Canadian Twitter users took exception to Mr. Harper's comments, and created #dresscodePM to express their feelings on the topic:
This has also had the effect of bringing Niqabi women out to speak on their own behalf, explaining why they wear their niqabs, and hopefully busting the stereotypes people have of them. For this one columnist in the Globe and Mail, that was certainly the case:
For myself, I would not want to wear a niqab, but I do not want to see the rights of women who have freely decided that it is want trampled on. Are there women who are being forced to wear them in Canada? It's entirely possible. But there are also women who are forced to wear long skirts and bulky sweaters by their parents or intimate partners. Do we enforce a dress code on all women to try and stop that from happening? There aren't any good stats on how many women wear niqab in Canada, but it is thought to be around maybe 100 women. Why is this suddenly such a huge issue?
For women who are forced to wear niqab, whipping up national sentiment against the niqab is only going to serve to push them farther into the shadows, making it less likely they will ever get help.
For the final thoughts on this topic, I think I will leave it to Shaun Majumder of This Hour Has 22 Minutes (kinda like a Canadian version of The Daily Show). He does a great job skewering some of the hypocrisy of this government on this issue.