Burqa ban: Canada prohibits Muslim veil in citizenship ceremonies (VIDEO)
Canada's ban follows those of France, Tunisia, Turkey, and Syria, and is meant to ensure that those taking the oath of citizenship are actually reciting the oath.
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While not all Muslim women wear head coverings, those who do wear them say they do so to conform to the Koran’s injunction for women to be “modest” in their clothing. Women in some South Asian countries such as India and Pakistan wear a simple chador, a scarf that covers their hair, but not their face. Some women in Afghanistan wear a burqa, which is a head-to-toe gown with a mesh-covered hole to look out from. A niqab is a veil that covers most of the face, except for the eyes.Skip to next paragraph
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Western nations aren’t the only countries that ban veils. Tunisia banned veils in 1981, Turkey banned them in 1997, and Syria banned veils in universities in July 2010. All three countries see themselves as secular nations with Muslim majorities, although Turkey’s most recent president has loosened such secular rules in recent years, and the authoritarian regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has been replaced by a coalition of democrats and Islamists.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Kenney indicated that the “burqa ban” would be limited solely to public offices, offering state services.
“We shouldn’t have the state using its power to dictate what people choose to wear in their private lives, but when there are important points of intersection with the state in obtaining state services I think it’s entirely reasonable for people to show who they are,” Kenney told the AP.
Canada’s Muslim citizens, who largely cluster in major cities such as Toronto and Ottawa, are currently estimated to be 940,000, or 2.8 percent of the population. But a recent study by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimated that this minority would grow to 2.7 million or 6.6 percent of the population by 2030.
For Canada, it remains to be seen just how popular this new law will be. France’s experience could be instructive.
As the Monitor’s Robert Marquand wrote in July 2010, the French ban benefited from a strange coalition of far-right French nationalists and liberals attempting to reinforce French notions of secularism and feminism on the French Muslim minority.
"As politics, the burqa is beautiful,” Marquand quoted Pap N’diaye, an opponent of the French ban, and expert at Paris’s School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences. “It is a minor real issue with huge political effect and social meaning. It allows an alliance between the right and left. The left, on progressive, secular, feminist grounds; the right, as a sign of the dangers of an Islamic identity."