Muslim Canadian Congress honours right-wing immigration minister, calls for extension of veil ban

A Muslim group is urging Canada’s immigration minister to extend his recent burka ban beyond the citizenship courts.

The Muslim Canadian Congress honoured Jason Kenney at a hotel in Toronto’s west end Sunday for his decision to ban burkas during swearing-in ceremonies. But then the group asked the minister to go a step further and introduce legislation requiring any face coverings be removed to work in the public sector or do business with government officials.

“You have taken a very courageous step in banning the burka from citizenship ceremonies,” Farzana Khan, former MCC president, told the minister. She then suggested Kenny table a bill similar to Quebec’s Bill 94.

Burkas and niqabs are not only a “security hazard”, they are also symbols of gender inequality and Islamic extremism, Khan said. “Invoking religious freedoms to conceal one’s identity and promote political ideology is disingenuous,” she said.

Khan and others said women who hide their faces do so for cultural reasons, not religious purposes, so it should not be protected under the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “As Canadian citizens, it is our right to see the faces of the people we deal with in public places,” said MCC Secretary General Tahir Aslam Gora.

After listening to the appeal, the Kenney said the idea sounds good in principle but he’ll need to take a closer look at it. However, Kenney added his decision to ban burkas at citizenship ceremonies was an easy one and it had the support of 81% of Canadians.

“For me it’s a simple principle,” Kenney said, adding he doesn’t see the ban as controversial. “People take a public oath publicly,” he said, explaining those who witness the citizenship ceremony should be able to see and hear the new Canadians declaring their allegiance to the country.

Toronto Sun, 22 January 2012