Canada's decision to ban Muslim women from covering their faces with the veil while taking their citizenship oath has sparked a new row.
According to the Guardian, Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship and immigration, announced the policy following complaints from citizenship judges that it was difficult for them to ensure if burqa-clad people are actually reciting the oath.
"They told me last month that it's a fairly common problem," Kenney said. ""Every week, in every region of the country, we're dealing with situations where applicants arrive with a veil on. Frankly, I found it bizarre that the rules allowed people to take the oath with a veil on."
While asserting that the oath of citizenship must be taken freely, openly and under equal conditions, Kenney said the new measure is not just a practical move. "It is a matter of deep principle that goes to the heart of our identity and our values of openness and equality," he was quoted by the paper as saying.
He announced the policy in the French-speaking province of Quebec, which has already introduced a new law that prevents people from wearing face cover while applying for government services, the report added.
Islamic groups have reacted angrily to the new proposal. "When did the state have to start deciding what a religious obligation (is) or how a person expresses their faith? Are we going to now have Mr. Kenney give religious rulings on what is Islamic and what is not?," Shahina Siddiqui, president and executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association in Winnipeg, has been quoted by the CBC News as saying.
"It's basically saying, 'If you wear a veil, you cannot be a citizen.' That's the message for us loud and clear. What will they do with women who were born and raised here who take the veil? How are you going to strip them of their citizenship?" Siddiqui added.