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What Is The Niqab?

10/29/2015 01:22 EDT | Updated 10/29/2015 01:59 EDT

In the aftermath of the federal election's controversial niqab debate, questions remain.

Mainly, what exactly is the niqab?

The fight to determine whether Muslim women can wear the headscarf during citizenship ceremonies was well-covered throughout the election, and its effects still linger politically.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said recently the wedge issue, which many deemed to be a distraction from real concerns, was a "defining" moment in his political career. Mulcair said he believes he did "right thing to stand up to Mr. Harper on those issues," even though it likely cost him the stronghold the NDP had in Quebec.

Outgoing Tory MP Paul Calandra also said focusing on the niqab and other identity issues during the election was a "mistake" that cost the party votes, even though a poll ordered earlier this year by Harper found that 82 per cent of Canadians favoured a niqab ban either somewhat or strongly, CBC reported.

Incoming prime minister Justin Trudeau promised to abide by the court's decision to overturn the ban, which was estimated to have affected two women in about 680,000 citizenship ceremonies.

There are just more than one million Muslims in Canada, and about half of them are female, according to the 2011 National Household Survey. But how many wear a niqab is unknown.

In recent months, several instances of violence against Muslim women were reported, prompting one woman who was attacked to ask Canadians not to "work on assumptions."

"Ask me a question!" Safira Merriman said in a Facebook account after an alleged attack. "I am more than happy to answer. And if I don't know the answer I can direct you to someone who does."

And in that vein, since you, our readers asked, here's a brief explainer about what the Islamic practice means.

With files from Lisa Yeung and The Canadian Press; infographic design by Justine Marimla.

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