A female leader in Ottawa’s Muslim community is applauding the federal government’s new plan to ban face-covering garments when reciting the citizenship oath.
“I am very happy about it,” said Nazira Tareen, founder and past president of the Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organization.
“If we Muslims have chosen Canada as our country, we have come here, it is our duty as Muslims, it tells us in the Koran, to obey the laws of the land we have chosen to live in.”
The rule, requiring Muslim women to remove face coverings such as niqabs or burkas, was announced Monday by citizenship and immigration minister Jason Kenney and is effective immediately.
Anyone who refuses to show their face will be asked to leave by a citizenship judge. If they change their mind they’ll get another chance to become citizens.
If not, they’ll remain permanent residents.
Tareen says covering the face is a cultural practice.
“It has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the religion of Islam,” said Tareen.
“I am vehemently against it as a practicing, very pious Muslim woman.”
Tareen says she’s been pleading with Muslim women to remove their niqabs when they’re at the mosque, calling it a “danger to women” in female-only sections.
“I don’t know whether it’s a man or a woman who’s under that covering,” Tareen said.
But not everyone is so quick to praise the feds’ policy.
“We don’t know enough about what Mr. Kenney meant, whether it is a categorical statement that everybody has to show their face,” said Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.
She agrees covering the face is cultural rather than religious, however, “we think that it’s up to the woman to decide how she wants to be in expressing her faith,” said Hogben.
“Our position is that we do think that a woman dresses as she pleases, that nobody should tell her how to dress.”
There are occasions, Hogben says, Muslim women need to show their faces, such as at airport security.
“We’re hoping for more information” on the new policy, she said.
Tareen and Hogben do not cover their faces.
“I hope very much that this is not going to be seen as an anti-Muslim rule. That would sadden me,” said Hogben.
On the other hand, Tareen says anyone who doesn’t like it — “should go back to their country.”