Kitchener-Waterloo

Kitchener Muslim school principal says anti-niqab promises are 'bullying'

A Kitchener school principal believes that the federal Conservatives are "bullying" a minority of women in the country who wear niqabs, in an effort to score political points.

Principal, students wear hijab, one teacher wears niqab at Maple Grove School

Rania Lawendy is the academic advisor for a new Islamic-based private school opening in Kitchener. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

A Kitchener school principal says that the federal Conservatives are "bullying" a minority of women in the country who wear niqabs, in an effort to score political points.

The Conservatives pledged to ensure public service workers don't wear them on the job, after the government lost a court case and an appeal to prevent women from taking a citizenship oath while wearing a niqab. Both the Liberals and the NDP have criticized the proposal.  

Rania Lawendy, the principal of the Muslim Association of Canada's Maple Grove School in Kitchener wears a hijab, as do some of the students, and one of her teachers on staff wears a niqab.

She said it's difficult to explain anti-niqab public sentiment to the children at school. 

I don't believe that the majority of Canadians feel this way.-Rania Lawendy ,  principal at the Muslim Association of Canada's Maple Grove School in Kitchener

"I think they're upset about all the attention that it's garnering by the Conservatives. Some of the students have mentioned, and I would agree with them, that they feel like the Conservative Party is trying to gain political points by bullying, really, a minority of women," she said.

"It's a divisive issue and it brings out the base reactions in people. I think really that's what the political party is going for, right? I mean why would they make this an issue?" said Lawendy.

"I would argue that actually wearing a niqab is within Canadian values. Because Canadian values state that a woman has a right and any person actually has a right to express themselves as they see fit as long as they're not hurting anyone else." 

Lawendy says that she teachers the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the students, but when they see political leaders speaking out against Muslims, "it becomes very upsetting to them and they don't understand why this is happening," she said. 

"I don't believe that the majority of Canadians feel this way, I think that the Conservatives are really catering to a minority of Canadians and I think that it's really dangerous," Lawendy said.  

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