BEPPLE: Let them wear niqabs
By Nancy Bepple
Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
September 25, 2015 - 9:07 AM
I am part of the minority of Canadians who do not support a ban on the wearing of a niqab at the Canadian citizenship ceremony.
The survey results, done earlier this year by Harper’s government, says the majority of people support having a woman remove her niqab during a citizenship ceremony. Harper and others are putting forward the survey in support for the government’s prohibition of the niqab in ceremonies. The court’s overturning of the ban is currently being challenged by the government.
I support the right of a woman to wear a niqab at the ceremony.
I’ve been to a number of citizenship ceremonies. They are very straightforward. Central to the ceremony is the oath of citizenship.
In the oath, the new citizen swears to bear allegiance to the Queen, observe the laws of Canada and fulfill their duties as a Canadian citizen. There’s nothing about clothing or religion in the oath to be a Canadian. There is nothing in the oath of citizenship about removing or giving up one’s religious adornment.
Allegiance to the Queen does not entail removing ones niqab. Allegiance is taken by people with all types of religious and non-religious beliefs. One can remain loyal to the Crown while wearing a niqab, just as one can be loyal while wearing Jewish yarmulke, Sikh turban, or Mennonite head covering.
When one takes the oath of citizenship, one agrees to uphold the laws of Canada. Core to the laws of Canada is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And within that charter is the right to one’s own beliefs. Around the world, people face persecution and sometimes death for their beliefs. It is beyond ironic to me that Harper would want to infringe on rights of religion in the ceremony where new Canadians are asked to uphold those same rights.
Upholding the laws of Canada means not committing acts of fraud, dishonesty and violence. There are members of the current government as well as Senate who have been convicted or on trial of breaking the laws of Canada. Breaking the law has nothing to do with wearing a niqab or any other religious item. It’s a choice of an individual.
The rights of one are the rights of all. Taking away the rights of a woman to wear a niqab infringes on all of our rights to practise our religious beliefs as we wish. Those in majority, who in Canada are secular Christians, may not care. It’s a given that we can do what we want, just as we have for the last 150 years. But Canada is a diverse, complex country. Denying the rights of one opens the door to bigotry and intolerance towards many other groups within Canada. For myself, I do not want to live in a place of ‘othering' where only people like myself feel welcome.
Duties of Canadian citizenship include things such as allowing others to have their own beliefs, participating in civic life and protecting the environment. All of these things can be done whether or not one wears religious clothing.
A small minority of Muslim women in Canada choose to wear a niqab. Each of them chooses to wear it for personal and unique reasons. Just as I am free to choose how I practice my religious beliefs, I support their right to do so as well.
We are less of a country if the ban is imposed again by Harper. Humanity, compassion and acceptance all in short supply in this world. Be and let be should be the order of the day.
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