Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Niqab ban is unreasonable non-accommodation

The following is a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen, as submitted on September 16, 2015.


The central assumption of the government's case against Zunera Ishaq is that by wearing the niqab during her citizenship oath, she is concealing her identity, which somehow compromises the integrity of the exercise. The underlying message here is not that the niqab may actually comprise part of a Muslim woman's identity as much as any facial feature, but that the Islamic faith, by its very nature, cannot be trusted if it involves hiding one's identity. From there it would follow that Islam is incompatible with Canadian citizenship.

Nowhere in this logic is there room for the possibility that Ishaq is being open about who she is as a woman of faith by wearing the niqab during her ceremony. In a world where people have been persecuted or even killed for their religious identity, and for the sake of a demographic that is often demonized for the sins of its most extreme brethren, I'd like to think Canadians (including our Prime Minister) have enough emotional intelligence not to mistake the niqab for disloyalty or dishonor by way of supposed identity concealment.

This situation is disturbing, as it seems our government is asking women of a particular faith to choose between their religion and their country where by default others are asked no such thing. This is a case of unreasonable non-accommodation, and to me reveals a very small vision of Canada.

But with the news that the government plans to fight the recent Appeals Court decision at the Supreme Court, it would appear that this boorish exercise in anti-Muslim social engineering will continue for the foreseeable future.

I miss my country.

James Deagle
Ottawa, Ontario

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