The Conservatives have announced plans to appeal a Federal Court ruling that allows women to cover their faces with Niqab while taking their oath of Citizenship. It’s becoming a polarizing issue that could potentially could win them the election.
There’s a case to be made for a ban. Yes there are charter rights to express yourself, and practise your own faith both of which are met by wearing the niqab. There are also rights guaranteeing equality under, and before the law. An accused person has the right to set eyes on their accuser. And how can you do that if someone’s face is completely covered and refuses to testify by video link?
The use of the niqab to preserve modesty is debated within Islam. Some such as Raheel Raza believe it, and the burka should be banned in all public places. She wrote a column advancing her opinion in the Toronto Sun. “The niqab, and the burka have nothing to do with Islam,” she said. She called both the symbols of ISIS, and called out the Canadian judiciary for “caving to Islamists.” There’s also an argument that it’s cultural based on country, and what sect of Islam you belong to. In banning it, we’d be standing up for our own cultural beliefs and establishing Canadian values as being an open, honest society that expects the same of its citizens. Is that a bad thing?
It’s tough not to look at someone wearing a burka or a niqab and understand why someone would actively choose to wear it. Canadian women have the entire world at their feet free to make choices, and express opinions the same as their male counterparts. It’s a natural assumption that women who wear the niqab are potentially being forced to do this. If it were banned we’d be forcing equality, which is also considered a Canadian value.
Democracy is where this argument falls apart. Because in a democracy; especially one as tolerant, and open as Canada’s is you can’t tell people how to express their faith. You can’t tell people what to wear either. It could be argued that if Canada considers itself a true democracy then of course we can’t ban it. Everyone should be free to do what they choose even if we don’t like it. We’re free to express that dislike.
It’s a conflict of values. How far does tolerance go? Does it stretch to allowing a practise that many Canadians label oppressive and are unable to wrap our heads around? Does it trump equality where men & women are seen as equal?