As It Happens

Radio host Bill Murdoch weighs in on MP Larry Miller’s on-air niqab comments

Conservative MP Larry Miller is apologizing for comments he made during a radio call-in show saying that women who want to wear the niqab while taking the citizenship oath should "stay the hell where you came from."
The recent debate over whether women should be allowed to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies was ignited after a Pakistani woman fought in federal court for her right to wear the facial covering during her oath. (Fred Ernst/Associated Press)

Conservative MP Larry Miller is apologizing for comments he made during a radio call-in show saying that women who want to wear the niqab while taking the citizenship oath should "stay the hell where you came from."

In a statement Tuesday, Miller also said that he stands by his views that those who wish to be sworn in as citizens should uncover their face.

He made his original comments during a call-in talk show on CFOS, a local radio station in his riding of Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound.

Tory MP Larry Miller, left, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (Prime Minister's Office)

The host of the show, Bill Murdoch, who is also a former Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP, spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about Miller’s comments.

“It didnt bother me that much because I’m used to that kind of talk,” he says. “But I knew what [Miller] meant and I knew he wasn't as angry as it maybe sounded.”

He says he agrees with Miller’s comments that women should have to uncover their faces during citizenship ceremonies, citing issues with identification.

Murdoch admits that he did not know some of the court case’s key facts when Miller appeared on the show. During our interview it’s explained to him that the woman at the centre of the case will show her face before she goes into the public room and that she’ll be fully identified. Murdoch responds, “Well, ok, I’d never heard that. I may have not listened to enough news.”

Former Ontario MPP Bill Murdoch, seen here at the Ontario Legislature in 2009, now hosts a call-in radio show in Owen Sound. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Still, when asked if he is worried that a terrorist hiding underneath a niqab would be sworn in as a Canadian citizen, he says “I think it’s a possibility. I don’t think it’s a probability. But, I think that could happen.”

“The whole thing stems back to what Larry said -- ‘if they don’t like it, then why the hell are they over here?’ It may be a little rough to say that. But, like, I wouldn’t go to a country where they were going to make me do things that I felt was against my principles or religion.” 

Listen to Murdoch’s conversation with Carol below.

Radio host and ex-MPP Bill Murdoch reacts to MP Larry Miller's comments made on his show that women who want to wear the niqab while taking the citizenship oath should "stay the hell where you came from." 7:49
I want to open up to Canadians and let them know that I don’t want to harm them. I don’t want to disrespect them or what they believe in any way.- Nusaybah

Carol also speaks with a young woman who chooses to wear a niqab. Nusaybah, who has asked As It Happens not to reveal her full name over safety concerns, explains that her decision to wear the niqab was a personal -- and spiritual -- one.

“I look at my body, my face, the whole of it as something from God,” she tells Carol. “When I go out...I want people to judge me for  my mind and not my body.”

Nusaybah, who was born and raised in Canada and decided to start wearing a niqab at the age of 17, argues that women should be allowed to practice their faith as they wish as long as it is not hurting others.

“I want to open up to Canadians and let them know that I don’t want to harm them. I don’t want to disrespect them or what they believe in any way.”

The recent debate over whether women should be allowed to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies was ignited after a Pakistani woman, Zunera Ishaq, fought in federal court for her right to wear the facial covering during her oath.

Nusaybah also responded to Miller’s on-air comments, saying “It’s very concerning when someone talks in this inflammatory way....It’s so unmeasured to talk in this way. It’s so degrading to the women he’s talking about.”

“Honestly? I’m getting scared. The way [he] has been talking and the way Stephen Harper has been talking, there has been such incredible hostility towards Muslim women.”

This is the second time in a month that a Conservative MP has used racially charged language. Last week, Harper was urged to remove John Williamson, a former communications director for the Prime Minister. The New Brunswick MP described the temporary foreign worker program as paying "whities" to stay at home while bringing "brown people" to work. 

Harper has since distanced himself from both comments. 

Listen to our full interview with Nusaybah below.

Nusaybah explains that her decision to wear the niqab was a personal -- and spiritual -- one. 7:48

Listeners responded to this story on social media. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now