Canadian Muslim Union opposes “visual identification” legislation

The Canadian Muslim Union (CMU) expresses its profound concern over the Government of Canada’s proposed “measures to confirm the visual identification of voters.” We believe this is an attack on the religious freedom of Muslims that panders to Islamophobes. We further believe that such pandering only strengthens the existing prejudice against Muslims that has been close to the surface since the events of 2001.

There is no other way to interpret this. Tens of thousands of Canadians have been voting by mail for years with no requirement of visual identification. Nor have the provinces seen fit to enact such restrictions. In fact many allow proxy voting on little more than a signature.

When placed in the context of the recent flap over veiled voting, where the Prime Minister disagreed with Elections Canada’s interpretation of existing law as it applies to women covering their faces, this can only be seen as an attack on the rights of Muslim women to interpret their religion.

We in the CMU believe that there is no requirement in Islam for women to cover their faces. We feel that the practice is a relic of an earlier misogynist society. None the less, we also believe that the State has no business telling women how to dress let alone how to practice their religion. And when such an edict is clearly addressed towards a very small segment of one religious group, this can only be seen as an attack on one of our fundamental freedoms.

We therefore ask that the Prime Minister reconsider his decision. There is no good that can come from it and the damage to everyone’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will be substantial.