Canadian Conservative MP apologizes over anti-niqab comments

Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:26pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A legislator with Canada's governing Conservatives apologized on Tuesday for saying Muslim women who do not want to remove their face-coverings when taking the citizenship oath should "stay the hell where (they) came from."It was the second embarrassing backtrack this month by the ruling Conservatives as they gear up for an October election that they have signaled they will center around the economy and the fight against what they call "jihadist terrorism."

The incident occurred on Monday when Conservative Member of Parliament Larry Miller spoke out against a woman who is fighting in court for the right to wear her niqab, at her citizenship ceremony.

"Frankly, if you're not willing to show your face in a ceremony that you're joining the best country in the world, then frankly, if you don't like that or don't want to do that, stay the hell where you came from," he said.

"That's maybe saying it a little harshly, but that's the way I feel."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has spoken strongly against using the niqab in citizenship ceremonies, but Miller apologized after being in contact with the prime minister's office.

"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," he stated.

Zunera Ishaq, at the heart of the controversy, said in the Toronto Star newspaper that she willingly takes off her niqab, a veil that covers most of the face, for security and identity, including before the oath ceremony.

"I will not take my niqab off at that same ceremony for the sole reason that someone else doesn't like it, even if that person happens to be Stephen Harper," she wrote.   Continued...