Canadian MP Larry Miller has apologized after his statement saying Muslim women who do not want to remove their face-coverings when taking the citizenship oath should, "stay the hell where [they] come from."
Miller's comments came when the case of Zunera Ishaq, a woman fighting in court to wear her niqab at the citizenship ceremony, was being discussed on a local call-in radio show.
"Frankly if you're not willing to show your face in a ceremony that you're joining the best country in the world ... if you don't like that or don't want to do that, stay the hell where you came from," said Miller.
"That's maybe saying it a little harshly, but that's the way I feel."
Following the rant, Miller issued a written apology on 17 March saying: "Yesterday I made comments on a radio show that I recognize were inappropriate.
"I stand by my view that anyone being sworn in as a new citizen of our country must uncover their face. However, I apologize for and retract my comments that went beyond this."
The comments have sparked outrage amongst the Muslim community members.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said Miller's remarks were, "a sadly unsurprising pattern of inflammatory rhetoric from the government seemingly designed to keep the electorate focused on identity politics in order to distract them from broader issues in an election year," reported The Independent.
Several critics are calling Miller's remarks anti-immigrant and anti-Canadian.
"[Canadian] values include freedom of choice, freedom of religion, freedom of expression," said Amira Elghawaby, human rights co-ordinator with the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
"These women do show their face for security purposes, so there's really no harm for anyone at all. I'm not really sure why the leaders keep bringing this up, keep fanning the flames with this kind of rhetoric. It's really disturbing."
Elghawaby said she fears the comments will spark harassment and discrimination against Muslims.
"[Wearing a niqab] is not something I, for example, believe is intrinsic in my practice. But it's just not my place or anyone's place - or the state's place - to dictate what women should or should not be wearing," said Elghawaby.