I'm a firm believer in the "when in Rome" policy when I travel.
Travelers are often warned about not stepping out of line and preparing for culture-shock when touring the Middle East and other regions of the world that are simply different from the West. We're often told that if you violate any cultural laws, no matter how silly -- the consequences are dire and there is little that the government can do back home to assist. Similarly, if you decide to take it one step further and move to another country, you're expected to do, act and live exactly as they say.
So, it's no wonder that an overwhelming majority of Canadians agree with the proposed niqab ban championed by none other than our very own Prime Minister, who is dabbling dangerously in Charter-ed territory. But this is Prime Minister Harper we're talking about so it should come as little surprise, *cough* Bill C-51 *cough*.
Here's the thing though, I didn't realize that covering your face at a citizenship ceremony violated any of the Canadian values we hold dear. If anything, doesn't it strengthen them?
The Prime Minister's primary reasoning for the ban lies not in national security, in practicality or in science -- it lies in politics. His notion that the niqab is a physical embodiment of oppression in societies that devalue women may be somewhat grounded, but a woman's right to wear whatever she chooses does not conflict with our moral decency as a nation nor does it signify national support for anti-women policy.
Droves of Muslim women have now taken to social media, newspapers and other media outlets to speak about their right to wear what they prefer and the fact that they're not being forced to is probably the most important counter-point to the Prime Minister's argument.
Of course, facial recognition and identification are critical to our security in those instances and faces are required to be shown in such instances, that makes sense.
But at a ceremony designed to showcase our national values of freedom of religion, expression, accommodation and speech? Well, let's just say that this election year, the Prime Minister should focus on reaching elsewhere for points rather than conjuring fear from diversity at a time where cultural understanding and unity are desperately needed.
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