[JURIST] Muslim women will be allowed to wear traditional Muslim niqabs or burqas [JURIST news archives] and not be required to show their faces to vote in Quebec by-elections this month, an Elections Canada [official website] spokesperson announced Thursday. The official said that women would not have to show their faces if they were able to sufficiently prove their identity with photo IDs or other documentation. The issue came to a head in an election in March when Quebec's chief electoral officer [official website] refused to allow Muslim women to vote without showing their faces, a move criticized as offensive to their religion by Muslim rights groups. AP has more.
Traditional Muslim face-covering garb and other religious dress [JURIST news archive] has become a controversial topic recently, as lawmakers struggle to balance an individual's right to practice their religion with public policy concerns. In the UK, the High Court in February upheld [JURIST report] a school ban on students wearing niqabs in class, saying the veils could interfere with student-teacher interaction. A UK teacher's aide last October announced plans to appeal a lower UK court's decision [JURIST report] rejecting discrimination claims against her school for refusing to let her wear a niqab in the classroom. Last month it was reported that a panel of senior UK judges have approved new courtroom rules that would ban full Islamic veils in the courts [JURIST report].