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OTTAWA – In yet another exhilarating debate, leaders of all the major federal Canadian political parties came together to discuss the niqab, a topic that is now more important than the Syrian refugee crisis, the declining economy or the country’s role in combat missions overseas. “Though this only affects a fraction of a percentage of the population, I’m really glad that the party leaders are finally addressing this issue that is keeping me up at night,” says Wilson Johnson, 62, a retired plumber who feels the niqab will eradicate the delicate fabric of Canadian values.
The main point of the debate was whether or not women should be allowed to wear the niqab, a veil that covers the entirety of the face and head except the eyes, to citizenship oath ceremonies. It’s a sore subject in Canada, especially in Quebec. The issue was hotly contested on both sides.
“I have a daughter,” says Conservative candidate Robert Nelson, “and I’m going to give her the freedom to choose what she can and can’t wear. Except if she wants to dress like a ninja. That’s when I’ll step in and make the decision for her because she doesn’t know better.”
On the flip side, Liberal candidate Jack Consmythe counters with his own point. “I think women should be able to wear whatever they want, however they want, whenever they want, to whomever they want. Last week I saw a homeless woman wearing a banana peel on her head and I was like, ‘yes, that’s what this country is all about and all the power to that woman.'” When pushed for more clarification on his point, the Liberal candidate started veering off topic to talk about how “everyone needs to hug a foreign-looking immigrant to understand what they’re going through,” as the crowd cheered randomly.
Despite the issue only affecting only a small percentage of women in a minority religious group, the niqab debate strangely did not have any female participants. Surprisingly, all the women interviewed in the audience were fine with this. “When men decide what we should wear, it allows our sensitive female brains to be used for other things,” says Deborah Dunn, President of the Let Women Speak Foundation, “I always loved it when as a kid my mom would lay out next day’s clothes on the bed. This is sort of the political equivalent of that and it’s liberating.”
Members of affected religious groups also have a wide range of views on this controversial issue. Farek Tatah, leader of the Muslim Progressive Society of Progressive Progress (MPSPP), says that the niqab offends him. “I think the niqab should be banned. It’s scary. It feels like I’m speaking with a talking curtain. I think talking curtains are the precursor to jihad. In fact, I think all Muslims should be deported as they’re all secretly espousing jihadi views. Anyone who identifies themselves as a Muslim is suspicious.” Tatah then stared blankly into space after realizing that by his own logic, he’d also be a suspicious Muslim.
Throughout the debate, Tom Uppal, a Sikh Conservative candidate who wears the turban, clapped and nodded his head along as the Conservative candidate admonished the niqab for making Canadians uncomfortable. Strangely, he continued to clap and nod along as the Conservative candidate started berating other religious symbols that make Quebecers uncomfortable, like the turban.
One female audience member, Ruqiya Tasleem, a veteran niqab wearer of 19 years, asked if she could be interviewed for this article but unfortunately we hit our word count limit.