The final debate prior to a national election in Canada for the prime minister’s position was partially focused on the right of Muslim women to wear a niqab. The number of Muslims in Canada is about 1 million people. According to Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey about 3.2% of the Canadian population, making them the second largest religion after Christianity. Muslims are not likely to influence the outcome of the election. The dilemma for western nations is the question of acceptance of Muslims. If their growing numbers results in sharia law taking priority over national laws then there will be a problem.
So what is a niqab? The BBC offered the following explanation and drawings of the various head covering used by Muslim women.
Hijab, niqab, burka – there are lots of different kinds of coverings worn by Muslim women all over the world.
Some wear a headscarf to cover their head and hair, while others wear a burka or niqab, which also covers up their face.
Headscarves are seen as a sign of modesty, and a symbol of religious faith.
But how can you tell which one is which? Check out our guide to the various different types.
The word Hijab describes the act of covering up generally but is often used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in many styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.
The Niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.
The Burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It is a one-piece veil that covers the face and body, often leaving just a mesh screen to see through.
The Al-Amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and a tube-like scarf.
The Shayla is a long, rectangular scarf popular in the Gulf region. It is wrapped around the head and tucked or pinned in place at the shoulders.
The Khimar is a long, cape-like veil that hangs down to just above the waist. It covers the hair, neck and shoulders completely, but leaves the face clear.
The Chador, worn by many Iranian women when outside the house, is a full-body cloak. It is often accompanied by a smaller headscarf underneath.