Salim Mansur: Defending the niqab ban

The requirement of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to remove full face coverings during citizenship ceremonies is not onerous and is consistent with the customs and conventions of an open liberal democratic society such as ours. But the Federal Court, in a judgment delivered by Justice Keith M. Boswell, has now deemed this requirement unlawful.

The ruling was made in a case filed by Zunera Ishaq, a Pakistani national and a permanent resident in Canada since October 2008. Ms. Ishaq argued that removing her niqab (a full face covering worn by some Muslim women), as required by the CIC regulation, would be an infringement on her religious beliefs, which are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. She claimed that as a devout Sunni Muslim who voluntarily follows the Hanafi school of fiqh, or jurisprudence, in Islam, her wearing of the niqab is a religious obligation and that its removal would infringe her religious freedom.