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Monday, January 23, 2012

Burka policy winning widespread support

The banning of Muslim women from covering their faces during Canadian citizenship ceremonies has won widespread support, according to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. The minister said polling shows eight out of 10 Canadians agreed with the policy while only 14 per cent disagreed.

The new policy also has support within the Muslim community. Farzana Hassan of the Muslim Canadian Congress said:

The niqab or burka is a political tool by Islamists who wish to segregate Muslims into religious ghettos, cut off from mainstream society. Islamists consider women who do not cover their heads and faces, which constitutes the vast majority, as sinners and lesser Muslims.

Mr. Kenney reportedly recalled a meeting with Sheikh Mohamed Tantawi, who is said to be Egypt’s top Muslim authority, and said Sheikh Tantawi told him face coverings were not a religious requirement. Mr. Kenney said:

He [Tantawi] clarified for me that people in the West who think this is a religious obligation do not understand Islam law. So I am not going to second-guess the most pre-eminent Sharia authority in the Sunni world.

From where I sit, covering one’s face in public, maybe someone’s democratic right, but it’s also an insult to Canadians and their traditional culture and values, which emphasizes gender equality and inclusiveness. How does one practice inclusiveness when in a group that includes persons draped from head to foot in an inverted sack with only small slits for their eyes? In short, one doesn’t.

Moreover, allowing this Arab-style garb in courtrooms, at election polling stations or in offices that provide government services goes well beyond reasonable accommodation to groups who follow these foreign cultural practices.

It is an anti-Canadian cultural practice to hide one’s identity when interacting with one another or with our institutions. If one wants to dress in this manner in places of worship, then that’s all well and good, but not while carrying on business or otherwise interacting in public spaces.

© 2012 Russell G. Campbell

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