Toronto: The niqab worn by Muslim women has become a flash point in Canada, with most people seeking ban on the veil in public. But liberals and the media are comparing the ban demand to a Taliban dress code.
Canada has about one million Muslims in its population of 34 million, and their population is expected to triple in the next two decades.
Barring those from orthodox Middle East countries, a majority of Canadian Muslim women don`t wear the hijab or niqab. But the veil is quite visible in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver where most Muslim immigrants live.
The niqab controversy has been triggered by an Egyptian immigrant`s refusal to remove her veil in her French language class in Montreal, forcing the school and the provincial Quebec government to ban her.
Toughening its stand on the issue, the government last week ordered that every niqab-clad woman must uncover her face to confirm her identity when applying for her medicare card.
The government also said that it will not entertain requests from niqab-wearing women to demand services by female staff.
The Quebec government has also mooted to banish the niqab from public services.
Describing the government`s attempts to banish the niqab "as pure intolerance - a hunt more common to the pitchfork-wielding redneck anxious to preserve his cultural domination", the Globe and Mail says the opposition to the niqab now goes "far beyond the ranks of the usual bigots.`"
What has further fuelled the debate is a recent Statistics Canada report which says that the country`s demography is changing fast in favour of coloured minorities who will become majorities in big cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal in the next two decades.
Canada`s changing demographics are definitely impacting people`s perception of the niqab issue, according to Morton Weinfeld, chair in Canadian ethnic studies at McGill University in Montreal.
Most Muslim leaders have spoken angrily against the attempts to stop Muslim women from wearing their religious dress code.