Zunera Ishaq takes citizenship oath wearing niqab after challenging ban

Mississauga, Ont., woman Zunera Ishaq, above, holds her Canadian citizenship certificate after swearing the oath on Oct. 9, 2015. Lorne Waldman handout photo / Global News

The woman who fought for the right to wear a niqab during her Canadian citizenship oath took part in the ceremony Friday — wearing a white and pink niqab.

Zunera Ishaq had hoped to be able to take the oath in time to vote in the Oct. 19 federal election.

READ MORE: Unpacking the politics: the political power of the niqab

Ishaq was unexpectedly thrust in the spotlight earlier in the campaign when the Federal Court of Appeal upheld a ruling saying she could wear a niqab during her citizenship oath.

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The niqab, a veil worn by some Muslim women which covers part of the face, has since become a heated — and highly divisive — debate among political leaders.

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Recently Global News spoke with the Mississauga, Ont., woman, who said she doesn’t believe the niqab should be an election issue.

“There are so many other issues in the campaign right now, they should be focusing on them,” Ishaq said.

Ishaq came to Canada from Pakistan in 2008. The 29-year-old mother of four is university educated and spends time volunteering at women’s shelters. She never imaged she would become the veiled face of a political hot potato.

READ MORE: Here’s how many times the NDP, Liberal, and Conservative platforms mention the niqab, and other terms

Back in March, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said in the House of Commons that the wearing of a niqab is a practice “rooted in a culture that is anti-women” and that it was “offensive” for someone to cover their face during a citizenship ceremony.

The Liberal and NDP leaders have made it clear they do not agree.

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau has urged Harper to drop the niqab issue, while NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has accused him of using the niqab as a “weapon of mass distraction.”

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On Tuesday Harper made headlines again when he said he would consider banning all public servants from wearing a niqab; the Public Service Alliance of Canada quickly shot back at Harper, saying the ban would violate its collective agreement.

The union also said it was not aware of any members actually wearing a niqab.

Ishaq has said the niqab debate has made some Muslims feel targeted. “Maybe they’re not intentionally doing this but they have done this,” she said.

WATCH ABOVE: The Conservatives want to prevent Muslim women from wearing the niqab during citizenship ceremonies. One woman launched a legal battle and much to her surprise, she’s become the poster woman for a hot-button issue that some say is rooted in intolerance. Vassy Kapelos reports.

With files from Vassy Kapelos


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