What Does the New Citizenship Policy Mean for Canada and Muslim Women?

Niqab © by sittiealiah


This week the Canadian government announced a new policy. No longer will the citizenship pledge taken by thousands here in Canada each and every year be administered to women who wear a face covering.

This means for women who are Muslim and wear the niqab or burqa they must choose to unveil or lose their chance at Canadian citizenship. What does this mean if they don’t unveil? It means they can NEVER become a Canadian citizen. They will not have the right to vote, to have a say in this democracy, they will not be able to hold some jobs. So because they choose their faith and the veil they will be relegated to second class status in this great land of ours.

As a woman I am outraged. As a Canadian woman even more so. Why?

Because our forefathers wanted a land that was welcoming, that could include all, that all points of view could be heard and seen. We established even a charter of rights and freedoms. It is my right as a woman to wear what I want as long as I am not indecent. I could swear citizenship in a bikini if I wanted too, but I can not dressed modestly and covered. I have the right as a Canadian to express my point of view, but these women will be forever denied that if they choose to cover. They will not have a say in our society, and it is NOT a male relative taking it away but our government.

Around the world there are many niqabi (women who cover and wear and veil) who hold great jobs and are great members of society. If you attend any mosque here in Toronto and are in the sisters area you can meet and talk with women who choose the veil. You would be surprised to find out some are born right here in Canada and see it as a deeper commitment to God. They don’t do it because they have too, or are forced here. Yes, in some parts of the world it is law but here they know they can choose it or lie it down. The veil is worn by these women because they are strong in faith and want to wear it, just like someone may say I am going to wear a habit because it is a symbol of my faith.

For those that say it is an identity issue I say Hogwash! A woman’s identity can be verified simply before taking the oath in a private room, where any woman I know would be glad to show her face to a female court officer. To say how can we know it is her is a moot point as many countries can tell who is who even covered.

By the way I can walk into a mall, and see a niqabi wearing friend of mine and know it is her. I can identity her in a crowd even of other sisters all wearing niqab. It is easy enough to do. identity is not the issue here.

What does that mean for Canada? What does this new policy really mean? If you are not like previous generations of Canadians you are not welcome here. Do as we do, say what we say, be like us, your ways are wrong, we want to empower you but you must do it this way to be empowered you can’t choose your way, you don’t have that expressive right. We are saying to these women because you are not already Canadian you have no charter rights, we do not have to give you them, and we can relegate you to second class member of society if you wish to wear that covering.

The policy is a huge step backwards in this land that is supposed to offer freedom and charter rights. We can no longer say ALL are welcome because as of Monday that is not the case. It is now you are welcome if you do what we say, and are just like us.

What can you do if you are like me and are thinking this policy is wrong? Write your MP. Call him or her and let them know your thoughts. Let me know your thoughts too, and yes I do care.

The Issue of the Niqab

Right now because of what is happening in France with their Niqab law( a law that is squarely addressed only toward Muslim women) there is alot of debate and discussion going on. President Sarkozy would have one believe that he is trying to liberate the Muslim woman who is forced to wear the veil. Well how is what he doing liberating? By taking away choice, he demeans the Muslim woman. How so? He is forcing his beliefs onto them. How is that freeing? It isn’t.

I am a muslim woman. I am a convert to Islam. I do not wear the hijab or headscarf in English fulltime. I do have a great respect for those who do chose to cover especially here in the west. Why? Because here in the west we have many misconceptions still that are both voiced and unvoiced on a regular basis.

I have personally seen a woman wearing a hijab insulted at a bank here in Toronto by a bank manager. I just happen to be that Muslim woman. When wearing the hijab I a 10th generation Canadian have also been told to go home. I have had the looks, the comments, and yes even had the hijab ripped off me.

Women who wear niqab or hijab for that matter are simply practicing their faith as they best understand it. In a democracy we should have that right. When it comes to matters of faith there needs to be a separation of church and state. Most who choose niqab in the west are like me converts who as they try and walk closer to God find themselves taking up the niqab much like a nun might choose to wear the habit. Did you know Britain banned nuns for many years? Muslim women are not the first to take up the right to worship as they want. When a nun in habit first appeared back in Britian she was seen as a barbarian. Sound familiar?

Did you know historically until the 19th century the veil was NOT part of the average of the average Muslim woman’s life? Not even in the middle east.  It was done historically by the upper class. Till the British occupation many in Egypt were giving up the veil and moving freely amongst society. In fact it wasn’t until the British occupied Egypt that the veil came back into play. As well in the Quran and sunnah( the rules that Muslims follow) woman’s rights are very protected.

Why would a woman cover? Why do some chose it these days? Because they want to draw closer to God. They are not doing it the majority of cases out of force. Most women in the west who are niqabis chose it for themselves, and shouldn’t they have that right?

I am thankful for the constitution here in Canada that states we are free to worship as we see fit. This means if I ever wanted to wear a niqab I could. How I would be seen on the streets is a whole other question.