At Malala’s citizenship ceremony, will she be forced to bare her head? – Sheema Khan

Sheema Khan makes the point regarding the wedge politics of the PM and Minister Alexander regarding the niqab, and in Minister Alexander’s case, the hijab (from someone who should and does know better):

… A few weeks ago, a federal court agreed with Ms. Zunera. However, our Prime Minister, who is campaigning for re-election, said that it was “offensive” to hide one’s face while joining “the Canadian family”. These comments were made in Quebec, where there is strong opposition to the niqab and increasing Islamophobic sentiment. Our Prime Minister chose to pander to these fears.

Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander went further, and tweeted “niqab, hejab, burqa, wedding veil – face coverings have no place in cit oath-taking”. He explained that a hijab can be used to cover the face.

Regarding the burqa issue in the U.K., you have told The Guardian: “I believe it’s a woman’s right to decide what she wants to wear and if a woman can go to the beach and wear nothing, then why can’t she also wear everything?”

Please Malala, ask Mr. Alexander if you will be required to remove your head-cover at your ceremony. And ask Mr. Harper and Mr. Alexander why Ms. Zunera should remove her niqab. Your carry great moral authority and your words will assist Muslim women who are being used as cheap political fodder. We know that you will stand by your principles.

At Malala’s citizenship ceremony, will she be forced to bare her head? – The Globe and Mail.

And Geoffrey Hall’s commentary on the risks the Government is taking:

A sizeable number of Canadians have genuine concerns about Islam. Some may even view certain of its manifestations, including the wearing of a niqab, as un-Canadian. Sure, the Conservatives may be playing on fears and unstated prejudices. But there’s a political risk inherent in dismissing those fears and prejudices without confronting them — in allowing ignorance to fester below the surface and voice itself in chauvinistic bumper stickers.

What happened with the values charter in Quebec? Remember, the Marois government introduced it because it thought it had a winner — and in the early stages of the election campaign, that’s what it looked like. But then something happened: The discussion, dialogue and opposition it provoked brought together individuals and groups from diverse cultural backgrounds — all rallying around the shared value of tolerance. Intended to draw neat lines around what is and isn’t Quebec culture, the charter managed to unite a plurality of Quebecers against it.

Which is what happens sometimes when unspoken prejudices are uttered aloud — people are forced to confront what they think in the daylight of community opinion. Right now, the federal parties are road-testing their messages for the election campaign. The Conservatives, like all the parties, always need issues they can exploit to fire up their base — and going after un-Canadian outliers has worked for them in the past.

But a message intended for core or regional audiences can linger, and turn into a liability in the heat of a campaign. The question now is how far the Conservatives can push the “I love Canada — fit in” slogan before voters tell them to f@*k off.

The risks and rewards of identity politics (pay wall)

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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