Unveiling top 5 Myths and Misconceptions of the niqab

There is no doubt that the niqab, a face veil covering the lower part of the face (up to the eyes) worn by observant Muslim, some Jewish and orthodox Christian women, has become the issue of the 2015 Canadian elections.
It is also clear, a large number of Canadian public including many Muslim-Canadians have very little facts when it comes to this piece of cloth and the politics wrapped around it.

Zunera Ishaq is disappointed the government’s focus on her individual case when there is so much more that merits the attention of Canadians at this time,” Ishaq says. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

A background look on the niqab issue in Canadian context:

The final step to become a Canadian citizen is the oath of citizenship. Citizenship and Immigration Canada requires citizenship candidates to remove full or partial face coverings while taking the oath.
Zunera Ishaq, a Muslim woman who wears a niqab. Became eligible to get her Canadian citizenship, since January 2, 2014, but has not yet taken the oath. She refuses to remove her veil when she takes the oath. However, she is willing to remove her veil for identification purposes before the ceremony to female immigration officer.

She challenged Citizenship and Immigration Canada policy in the Federal Court, and won. The federal government appealed the decision to the Federal Court of Appeal, and lost twice. Soon after the second ruling by the courts, Canadian government requested a stay of the Federal Court of Appeal decision. As they consider taking the matter to the Supreme Court of Canada.

As we unveil these myths and misconceptions of the face-veil. One niqab at the time. The courts have denied government request for stay of the case, clearing the way for Ishaq to wear a niqab during a citizenship ceremony.
In the wake of this and other latest development of the issue on niqab, we decided to look into the myths and misconceptions covered under this women’s garment.
Therefore, here are the top 7 myths and misconceptions of the Niqab.

1. There is a verse in the Quran that commands Muslim women to wear a face- veil or niqab. The word used in Verse 33:53 of the Quran is “hijab / حِجَاب” to mean ‘barrier’. Elsewhere in the Qur’an, the word has been similarly used, but not to mean a physical barrier.

2. Niqab issue in Canada and in this year’s elections is on one’s religious beliefs. Another misconception skewed for and against the issue of Niqab in Canadian context. Here is the direct quote from the woman at the centre of this controversial issue.

“I wish to confirm that I will be identified without my veil for the purposes of the ceremony. This has nothing to do with identity and everything to do with my right — and the right of all Canadians — to think, believe and dress without government interference,” Zunera Ishaq said.

3. Muslim women are refusing to unveil their face-veils for officers of the law. A myth. Majority of Muslim women unveil their Niqab at Citizenship ceremony. Ishaq is only one of two women who have refused to unveil before taking the citizenship oath since the Conservatives introduced the policy directive in 2011.

4. Wearing a niqab is not in line with Canadian values.
Yet another misconception or just lack of knowledge on what recent, stats Canada survey revealed. Statistics Canada said recently that more than 90 per cent of us, when asked, identified the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as an “important symbol of Canadian identity.” Section 2 of the charter — including the right to religion, expression and association — as well as Section 15, which guarantees no one is to be singled out based on religion or gender.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
Both of those sections, by the way, guarantee fundamental rights to “everyone,” meaning all people residing in Canada whether or not you have become a full citizen yet.

5. According to the government’s own polling, 83 per cent of Canadians support forcing a Muslim woman to remove her niqab to take part in the oath of citizenship.
Now today the Conservative government said its also looking in extending the ban to include public servants. We want to do our own polling here, what you think. Should the Canadian government force Muslim women not to wear the niqab?

About Msimulizi

Publisher and Editor in chief MsimuliziOnline, community news and information hub serving East African-Canadians.

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