A Canadian Muslim group is calling on the Canadian government to ban the wearing of the burqa in public, saying the argument that the right to wear it is protected by the Charter’s guarantee of freedom of religion is false.
The Muslim Canadian Congress called on the federal government to prohibit the two garments in order to prevent women from covering their faces in public – a practice the group said has no place in a society that supports gender equality.
“To cover your face is to conceal your identity,” Congress spokeswoman Farzana Hassan said.
Mohamed Elmasry, former president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, disputed suggestions that the garments pose a security threat, saying only a minority of Muslim women living in Canada feel the need to conceal their features in public. Elmasry stated that women should have the freedom to decide whether they wish to cover their faces, and that a ban would limit freedom of expression.
Mohamed Elmasry, a professor of microchip design and national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, takes issue with the treatment of Islam in Canada’s weekly news magazine publication, Maclean’s Magazine.
After considering how to best respond, whether with a criminal complaint or a civil case, Elmasry and the CIC decided on a quasi-judicial compromise by focusing on human rights commissions. All three of their complaints have been rejected. He claims, “The first point that I did learn from this exercise is that Islamophobia is alive and well in Canada, in the media and also in politics. In all of this, we’ve been victimized.” Elmasry adds that Canadian law is deficient because it lacks the concept of “group defamation” which would enable tribunals to uphold complaints such as his.
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Canadian Muslims and refugee advocacy groups have rebuked calls by a right-wing think tank, the Fraser Institute, to restrict the arrival of immigrants from Muslim countries. The spokesperson for the Canadian Islamic Congress, Mohamed Elmasry, in response, stated, Canadian Muslims contribute to the wealth of this country more than the average and have higher levels of education than the average.