I thought Canada supported religious freedom, diversity

Re: Multiculturalism in Canada can ‘stay the hell’ where it came from As I sat in the car, my husband was fidgeting with the radio dial. Tuning away, he stopped to listen to one station where a discussion about niqab was going on. We were quickly drawn in the discussion, being Muslims, and felt a sudden wave of discomfort running across our minds.

Re: Multiculturalism in Canada can ‘stay the hell’ where it came from

As I sat in the car, my husband was fidgeting with the radio dial. Tuning away, he stopped to listen to one station where a discussion about niqab was going on. We were quickly drawn in the discussion, being Muslims, and felt a sudden wave of discomfort running across our minds.

This was a week after Prime Minister Harper gave a statement on niqab, a face-covering veil worn by some Muslim women, saying that it was “rooted in an anti-women culture,” while he expressed the government’s desire to forbid women from wearing niqab during the swearing-in ceremony of citizenship.

The radio show we were listening to replayed the transmission where Conservative MP Larry Miller, backing Harper’s statement told, CFOS Radio that women who refuse to remove their face veil during the citizenship ceremony should “stay the hell where they came from.” His words pierced through my ears. I am a Muslim woman and while I do not cover my face, I felt humiliated and disrespected by him, because I do endorse the idea of liberty to practise one’s religion openly.

Most importantly, the reason why I felt so demeaned was because the woman whose niqab apparently ‘stirred’ the controversy comes from my country — Pakistan. Zunera Ishaq is one of many women who cover their face by choice. Prior to the citizenship ceremony, Ishaq had agreed to unveil herself to an official for identification purposes, but had refused to take her niqab off during the ceremony.

My husband and I sat in silence, listening to the rerun of Monday’s broadcast of Bill Murdoch’s 560 CFOS program, which had Miller as a guest speaker. Miller said, “If you’re not willing to show your face in the ceremony that you’re joining the best country in the world, then frankly … if you don’t like that or don’t want to do that, then stay the hell where you came from.”

We shook our heads in disappointment and at the disgust that we felt in Miller’s tone towards Muslims.

It has been slightly over two months since I came to Canada as a permanent resident. Before coming here, I would often read and hear about how leaders in Canada relentlessly support religious freedom and champion cultural diversity.

Witnessing this situation now, I feel very insecure when I step out of my house now, donning a hijab. I do feel unguarded, as though now everyone looks at me with the same myopic view that Harper has; as though they feel I am oppressed and forced to wear hijab.

The radio broadcast really pushed me to reckon that if I choose stay in Canada in the future and if such ideas of enforcing laws curbing an individual’s right to religious freedom continue to live on, will I also be told “stay the hell where you came from”?

Sidra Moiz Khan

Red Deer