Niqab debate an election tactic, Saskatoon political analyst says

SASKATOON – Days away from Oct. 19, women wearing the niqab while taking the Canadian citizenship oath continues to be a hot topic on the election campaign. With more controversy surrounding Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s policies around the garment, more Muslim women are speaking up about the issue.

“We are doctors. We are engineers. We are lawyers. We are professionals. We’re mothers,” said Shazia Rehman, a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association.

“It’s becoming so politicized. It’s crazy. Nobody can recognize the way it’s being projected as an oppression of women or as a destroyer of a voice.”

Recently in Toronto and Quebec, two women were attacked in public. One woman was wearing a hijab, a head covering  and the other was dressed in a niqab, which covers her face.

READ MORE: The niqab and ‘old-stock Canadians’: Memorable events from the 2015 federal election

A woman in Toronto also spoke out about her brush with Islamophobia. She said she heard a man openly verbally abusing Muslim women at Toronto Eaton Centre.

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“I just stopped him and said I’m Muslim, thinking he would stop … maybe feel embarrassed. But he didn’t. He kept going and what he was saying kept escalating,” said Farah Mawani when she spoke to Global News.

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Mawani later tweeted out, ” The man was making machine gun motions and putting his hand over his face to indicate a niqab. That’s how bad it is.”

WATCH: Political strategist panel weighs in on refugees, niqab

Political analysts have called Harper’s niqab stance an election tactic and a ‘wedge issue.’

“It’s just like when you take a chisel and you’re going to hit a rock. You know you’re going to fracture. But you can’t always predict which way that crack is going to go,” said University of Saskatchewan political studies professor, Greg Poelzer.

Poelzer added that many voters may decide to vote Conservative because of his dedication to maintaining the ‘Canadian identity’ but the strategy could also backfire.

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“There’s a large segment of voters that are going to say, ‘Wait a minute … this isn’t the Canada I knew growing up. This isn’t the Canada of multiculturalism and the Charter of Rights and Ffreedoms,'” he said.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair have criticized Stephen Harper for his policies around the niqab.

WATCH: The politics of the Niqab
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