This week’s general election has been dominated by discussions about whether or not approximately 100 women per year should be allowed to wear a niqab during their Canadian citizenship ceremony. For an entire week political candidates, journalists, and pundits have focused on a topic that impacts about 0.003% of the Canadian population.
But this isn’t really about niqabs, it’s about growing public angst about Islam; it’s about political leaders that have yet to lead a frank national conversation in the post-Parliament-Hill-Attack and post-September-11-2001 era. And if left unchecked, that public angst will turn into institutionalized Islamophobia that could take generations to eradicate.
Thinly veiled conversations about niqabs, citizenship ceremonies, and 0.003% of the population are a waste of time. What would be productive, however, would be for political leaders to talk about the values espoused by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the challenge of living those values; not only in our federal policies but also in our everyday lives.