Canada outraged over security exemption for niqab-wearing women

Monday, August 2, 2010

TORONTO - A YouTube video showing two niqab-wearing Muslim women being allowed to board a flight at Montreal airport without being subjected to any security checks has outraged Canadians.

The incident, which was captured by a British passenger of Air Canada’s flight from Montreal to Heathrow last month, violates international standards which require airport check-in staff to see the faces of passengers who board their flights.

In the video, a man accompanying the veiled women is shown handing over their passports to the check-in staff who then let the women pass through without asking them to remove their veils as required by rules.

Posted under the title ‘A major Canadian airline risks your safety, pandering to Muslim sensibilities,’ the video - with titles and soundtrack - drew thousands of hits and racist comments, vilifying Canadian leaders for “political correctness”.

As Canadians expressed their outrage at the lax security at their airports, Transport Minister John Baird Sunday ordered an investigation into the incident.

Calling the incident “deeply disturbing”, the minister said such neglect poses a serious threat to the security of the air travelling public.

“I have instructed my department to immediately look into this matter and report back. If our current security policies in this area are deemed to be lacking, our government will take the necessary steps to protect the safety and security of the travelling public,” the minister said.

Niqab has become a big issue in Canada after French-speaking province Quebec banned it in March, denying all government services to women wearing the veil.

The action followed protests triggered by an Egyptian immigrant’s refusal to remove her niqab in her French languages classes in Montreal, forcing the school and the provincial government to throw her out. It was the first such step in North America to curtail any religious dress.

Election Canada also ruled in 2007 to allow veiled women to cast their ballot, forcing the government to introduce a bill to overturn it.

Canada has more than one million Muslims in its population of 34 million, and their population is expected to triple in the next two decades.

Though a majority of Canadian Muslim women don’t wear the hijab or niqab, the veil is now quite visible in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver where most Muslim immigrants live.

Filed under: Religion

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