Muslim Council of Montreal dismayed over banning of face veil in citizenship ceremonies

December 13, 2011

Montreal, Quebec, December 13th, 2011- The Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM) expressed its dismay over Monday’s announcement by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney banning Muslim women from wearing facial veils when taking their Canadian citizenship oath.

“It is outrageous to hear our federal ministers say that the wearing of a face veil by a woman who elects to do so out of her own free will in accordance to her religious obligations is against Canadian values,” stated Salam Elmenyawi, president of MCM. “Mr. Kenney forgets that the protection of religious freedoms and expression, as well as respect and tolerance for the religious beliefs and practices of others, are also Canadian values that we cherish in our multicultural country. So long as the women wearing the face veil identify themselves and do not pose any harm to anyone else, it is not Mr. Kenney’s place to deny them their rights and freedoms.”

Mr. Kenney stated that in order to prevent citizenship fraud it is required to be able to actually see the faces of the people to ensure they are reciting the oath. However, MCM notes that the oath-takers at a citizenship ceremony routinely recite the oath en masse, making it difficult to even ascertain that those with uncovered faces are reciting. Moreover, those desiring citizenship are not just required to vocalize the oath, but to sign it as well, given that the recitation is mostly symbolic and that some, like those with speech defects and children, are not able to recite it.

“By suggesting that the women covering their face are not in fact reciting the oath is casting unjustified suspicion on their commitment to Canada and only seeks to marginalize the Canadian Muslim community,” Elmenyawi said. “Why are only they singled out while no provisions are taken to ensure that everyone is reciting? Instead of perpetuating negative stereotypes and fueling suspicion against innocent law-abiding Canadians, our government would be better served to seek a compromise to accommodate the religious beliefs of others when needed.”

“We are also disturbed to see Mr. Kenney stating that the face veil is not a religious obligation, as though he is qualified to interpret the rulings of Islamic jurisprudence and tell others how to observe their faith,” Elmenyawi said. “While all Muslim women do not choose to wear the face veil, the wearing of it is still from a legitimate mainstream school of thought in Islam. His comments regarding the Hajj only further demonstrate his utter lack of understanding. It is also preposterous to suggest that all Canadian Muslim women who wear the face veil are extremists, or that they are not equal, productive, contributing members of Canadian society. If a woman chooses to dress a certain way out of her own free will, she should not be made to feel as though she is not a legitimate Canadian, or that she is against Canadian values.”



Salam Elmenyawi

Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM)

Ph.: (514) 748-8427




The Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM) is an umbrella organization representing a number of Islamic institutions in the Montreal region. There are over 275,000 Muslims in Montreal, about 1,200,000 in Canada and 1.9 billion worldwide.