03/11/2015 12:56 EDT | Updated 05/11/2015 05:59 EDT

Niqab comments by Stephen Harper 'undignified,' Tom Mulcair charges

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair chastised Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau Wednesday, accusing them of using inflammatory language in the debate  over whether a woman has the right to wear a niqab at a citizenship ceremony.

The debate has picked up speed since the government said it would challenge a Federal Court of Appeal decision that overturned a ban on face coverings in citizenship ceremonies. The court said the ban interfered with a judge's "duty to allow candidates for citizenship the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation of the oath."

But as politicians debate two proposed anti-terrorism bills and deal with the fallout from the Oct. 22 shooting at the National War Memorial and on Parliament Hill, rhetoric regarding Islam has been increasingly heated.

"Mr. Harper specifically singles out mosques [in the debate]. That leads to Islamophobia and that's irresponsible," Mulcair said Wednesday on his way out of the NDP's weekly caucus meeting.

"When he talks about a culture of 1.8 billion human beings as being anti-woman — he just decreed that yesterday in the House of Commons. They're trying now to back away from it, but he said what he said and that's very divisive and it's irresponsible, and it's undignified from a Canadian prime minister."

Both opposition parties have criticized the government for stoking fear of Muslims for political reasons. They say the Conservatives aren't distinguishing between the overwhelming majority of Muslims, who disavow terrorism, and Islamic extremists.

In a speech Monday, Trudeau accused the Conservatives of blurring the lines between security threats and prejudice. He compared the government's use of rhetoric to raise fears against Muslims to that used to promote a "none is too many" restrictive immigration policy toward Jews in the 1930s and 1940s.

Mulcair also took aim at both Trudeau and the government.

"Using any reference to the Holocaust in relation to the situation in Canada is singularly inappropriate," he said.

"I think that there's been enough inflammatory language both by the Conservatives and by Mr. Trudeau on this."