New swearing-in rule upsets local Muslims

Waterloo Record 16 December 2011
By Liz Monteiro

WATERLOO REGION — Huda Hasan and her sister-in-law Amena Faysal had every intention of becoming Canadian citizens. The Waterloo women aren’t so sure now. Both of them wear the niqab, a facial covering worn by some Muslim women.

This week, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced that anyone wearing a face covering must lift it while reciting the oath of Canadian citizenship in a room full of people.

Kenney said the veil "reflects a certain view about women that we don’t accept in Canada. We want women to be full and equal members of Canadian society and certainly when they’re taking the citizenship oath, that’s the right place to start.’’

Kenney said he received complaints from citizens, MPs and citizenship judges who said it was difficult to ensure that those whose faces were covered were actually taking the oath.

But for Hasan and Faysal, an open and equal society means allowing women to wear what they choose.

"I think it’s a direct attack on Canadian Muslim immigrant women who are simply trying to fulfil a religious obligation,’’ said 22-year-old Hasan. She moved to Canada in 2009 from Pakistan.

Hasan said wearing the niqab — a veil that covers her head and face, showing only her eyes, along with the abaya, a robe-like dress over the entire body — is a covering she has worn since she was 15.

"I want to wear it. Nobody can tell me to remove it,’’ said Hasan, who is expecting her second child in February.

"I believe that is an obligation on Muslim women. It’s a dress code that we are to apply to ourselves,’’ Hasan said. (...)