Nfld. & Labrador

Niqab should not be election issue, say Christian, Muslim and Hindu leaders

Leaders from different religions gathered in St. John's on Thursday and were united in their belief that wearing of the niqab should not be getting so much attention during the federal election.
Muhammad Nazir, with the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, doesn't think the niqab issue should be part of anyone's campaign. (CBC)

Leaders from different religions gathered in St. John's on Thursday and were united in their belief that wearing of the niqab should not be so much attention during the Canadian federal election campaigns.

The niqab has become a divisive federal election topic in recent weeks, with the Conservative government vowing to fight a Federal Court of Appeal ruling saying women shouldn't have to remove niqabs, which cover their faces during citizenship ceremonies.

Leaders from the Anglican, Catholic, Muslim and Hindu religions all took part in the meeting on Thursday, organized by the Religious Social Action Coalition.

While the focus was on poverty reduction, the niqab issue wasn't far from their minds.

Muhammed Nazir, with the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, doesn't think the niqab should be part of anyone's campaign.

"It's really an issue which I think certain politicians feel they can make some points and gain some ground," he said after the meeting.

"That's up to them, whether the public will support them or not. As far as we're concerned, it's totally a non-issue." 

Rami Wadhwa hopes that Canadians will get used to the niqab the same way they did with Sikh turbans in the past. (CBC)

Rami Wadhwa, a local Sikh leader, remembers when turbans were once a point of controversy in Canada.

He said back then communities worked together to understand each other — and that may be what's needed now if people take issue with the niqab. 

"I had some incidences where there was some name-calling and everything, but I think things have changed," he said.

"We have worked hard to do the exposing, to see who we are and what we do, and we don't have any problems."

Father Paul Lundrigan thinks there is a double standard with people accepting the attire of Christian sisters but not the wearing of the niqab. (CBC)

Father Paul Lundrigan, with the Roman Catholic Church, is also surprised every time the niqab issue comes up. 

He made the point that Canadians generally had no problem with Catholic nuns being mostly covered and doesn't think there is any difference with women wearing niqabs or any other religious garb.

"I'm not too sure exactly what the issue is," he said.

"From my own faith tradition, there were large numbers of women who wore something very similar to the niqab and burqa, covered head to toe in black — the sisters."

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