Last year, long-time Canadian resident Zunera Ishaq postponed her citizenship when she refused to remove her niqab during the oath swearing portion of her citizenship ceremony. And now politicians and media folk alike are all over the story as though it was the quashing of the Second Amendment in America.
The most important question, as usual, is Why is this news? And Why now? Why has this story gained so much (dis)traction? At first glance it may appear to be backfiring against the Conservatives. With his advice for potential immigrants to “stay the hell where you came from“, Conservative MP Larry Miller is effectively taking a hit for the team. A small hit, mind you, that he returns with a jab for lasting effect. Like the trial lawyer who makes an inflammatory, prejudicial remark quickly followed by the opposition’s “Objection!”, the damage is done. The jury cannot un-hear the damning words. Nor can the electorate.
It is not Larry Miller’s crass comment that will sink in and take root. It is the divisiveness it abets. His comment combined with the plethora of other Conservative rhetoric, military actions, Bill C-51 and so on, further emboldens and strengthens the “Us and Them” dichotomy the Conservatives and their puppeteers aim to cultivate. Already, there are online polls (polling 0.0003% of the nation) in major media outlets suggesting such-and-such a number of Canadians oppose niqabs at swearing in ceremonies.
They speak of Canadian values, such as freedom. While I am an agnostic who thinks religion often receives too much tolerance — it is only when that tolerance comes at the expense of others that I actually care. And admittedly, the niqab does strike me as an archaic, outdated, oppressive and sexist tradition. However, the argument can be made about women’s clothing standards in The West being similarly (and even more painfully) oppressive. Corsets, of course, but also high heels, tight skirts, bras and so on. It’s a more than fair argument. And whether I, or anyone else, think a religious tradition is stupid or not is inconsequential. Smoking and drinking are stupid, far stupider than wearing a face veil in the name of religion, but the Canadian government permits and taxes both. Even the wishy-washy, fear-mongering Justin Trudeau (who supports the fascistic Bill C-51) pointed out that the Conservatives are “liberating people from oppression by dictating in law what they can and cannot wear.”
They speak of security. Even though there is recourse for people to be fingerprinted under appropriate circumstances. I reckon this is more effective than a face check. Furthermore, the person at the ceremony, if an impostor, does not recieve citizenship just because they took the oath. It is not a magic spell. And it’s not like the end of a Scooby-Doo episode where they whip off her mask to reveal her true identity.
This entire affair is a distraction from what we should really be talking about. And no, it is not the economy. It is not jobs. It is definitely not the bogus threat of terrorism. The only thing to talk about is the environment. Earth. When you are laying in hospital with a potentially terminal illness you care about only one thing. It is not your medical bill. It is not what your nurse is wearing. It is not crime and punishment nor interest rates. It is curing that illness. All else is moot if you’re dead. And the Earth is dying. And in need of curing. Everything else is moot.