Text from the Air: Niqab
There’s a debate happening in Ottawa about the niqab.
That’s the head and face covering worn by some women, most often from the countries of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan*, and it covers their whole face except the eyes. The debate is whether one should be allowed to wear the niqab in a Canadian citizenship ceremony.
Canada’s ambassador for religious freedoms, Andrew Bennett says it’s important that we Canadians have a say.
So I’m going to have my say:
I don’t say this often recently, but I believe the Conservative Government is correct. When someone is taking the oath of citizenship, he or she ought to have his or her face uncovered. The niqab should NOT be worn. You should have your face uncovered saying “This is me and I am becoming a Canadian citizen”
While the government is only arguing against the niqab for citizenship ceremonies, the Prime Minister did say the head and face covering is contrary to Canadian values and “rooted in a culture that is anti-women.”
Again, I agree with him.
While some women willing choose to wear the covering, it comes from a patriarchal society that wants to cover up women’s faces to, in part, make them invisible and therefore powerless. I believe that’s the message it sends when people see it whether or not the wearer thinks so.
I consider face coverings of any kind while interacting in public a breach of social contract. Think about this, someone is wearing a balaclava on a cold day and goes into a store to get coffee. If he or she doesn’t lift the mask off, what would you think? But the thing is, people instinctively do this. We pull our scarf down from our face, lift the balaclava, loosen the pulled tight hood when we go to interact with someone else. Because our faces tell who we are!
Now, do I think the government should outlaw face coverings beyong the citizenship ceremony? No. As much as I dislike the niqab, and especially the burka, I believe doing so would also be against the Canadian value of Freedom of Expression.
Here’s the thing. People can wear what they want but they need to realise that, 1) it sends a message and 2) the message it sends may not be the one they intend.
*according to University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research
(Photo by Annabelle Shemer via Flickr)