Having lived and worked in the Middle East, I think the main point is that for Canada to accept the covering of one group of religious followers' faces means that our society is accepting the philosophy behind it, the notion that if a woman does not cover herself, her femininity, her attractive face, it is her fault if men 'want her' and cannot control themselves (not-the-man's-fault assault). While some Muslim women do this because of their interpretation of the Koran, many do it because the men in their society label them as 'loose women' and 'bad Muslims' for not covering up. That's a pretty powerful tool to fight against, being labelled a 'slut' and 'societal failure' everyday by everyone around you.
The reality is that just a few decades ago (a generation who are in their 60's and 70's now) there was virtually no face covering going on. Before oil made the entire nations in the Arab States wealthy enough to quit being nomadic camel herders, there was far too much work to be done to cover up all the time. This is a new imposition from Imams who want to be known for making new and more stringent proclamations -- ever MORE conservative interpretations of the Koran. Some years back in Saudi Arabia the commonplace baring of hands and feet suddenly became taboo and many women began wearing socks and gloves in the 50+ C degree heat.
Note that there is NOTHING (not anywhere in the Koran) that states the colour of any of these 'modest article of clothing' be black. Black was imposed upon women in Saudi because it discourages women from going out in the sunlight. When the temperature goes up to 70 C in the sun, even weary black pants is a painful experience. All the men wear white, very thin cotton garments that shelter them from the sun while being as cool as possible.The real issue, when we are talking about 'fundamentalism' in ANY religion, Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, Judaism or Islam, is that, while 'sticking to the strict rule book' is immensely pleasurable and reassuring for many obsessive-compulsive, change-averse types, the rules and regulations written into these books were relevant thousands of years ago. The message of 'doing the right thing' versus doing whatever we selfishly would prefer to do has eternal relevance, but the majority of people in every society use religion as a 'guideline' for their lives/behaviour, they don't see it in 'absolutes' and over time open-mindedness has begun to take over. There will always be individual men with psychopathic tendencies who will try to hijack ancient religious writings as an excuse for doing things they really enjoy doing, like tossing acid in the faces of women, raping them, or controlling them in other ways, but the majority of people 'get' that these ancient historical documents have lost their relevance and they no longer abide by them word-for-word.
Like the work that Catholic Bishops are doing behind the scenes to give themselves the semblance of power and an excuse to mingle with high rollers (see my last post here), when we go along with whatever some control-obesessed males have cooked up under the guise of religion just to be politically correct/sensitive, we are actually opening the door to much more radicalization.
Many new Canadians, having come from totally repressed, censored countries, revel in their 'rights' once they become citizens here, to protest being offended by everything they come across -- it's like being a kid in a candy store, and they snicker at the way the rest of their fellow Canadians rush to apologize and acquiesce. This 'multicultural melting pot' that P.E. Trudeau began has gone out of control, to the point where Canada is losing any clear heritage. It's being whitewashed to avoid "offending" newcomers.
Net-net, this face-covering thing is (in most of the Arab world) a new imposition, not a consistent thing stretching back millenia. For Canada to roll over on it would be a violation of our core values, that men and women are equal. Wear what you like, shave your head, never cut your sideburns, but when it comes to hiding your identity, you should be required to expose yourself to ANY person who asks you to do so, everywhere in our free country, just as any man walking into a bank or courthouse wearing a ski mask would be asked to do.
It's time for modern societies like Canada to stop 'tip-toeing' around recent immigrants' demands to never change and refuse to assimilate. It's time to say "These are the modern, open-minded, fair and egalitarian rules of Canadian society, your new country's morals/ethics that are the foundation of providing you and your family with a better life and more freedom. Sorry, but if you are so keen on not changing, on not accepting Canada's view of humanity, then return home and stay there, and if I visit your country, I promise not to break your country's codes of conduct and respect your traditions."
Just because the Koran happened to be written at a time when it was common to keep slaves (interesting that you don't hear about Muslims using all the mentions of slaves in the Koran as justification for enslaving people -- although there are literally tens of thousands of household slaves in the Middle East today within those impenetrable walled family compounds) doesn't mean that today it is OK for slavery to be enshrined in Islamic countries' constitutions. The issue of repression of women is identical. It was commonplace and accepted as a part of life 2,000 years ago, it no longer is.
That is what the hijab is all about: the world's largest religion saying that, because this book, the central tenant of our religion, was written at a time that it was OK to enslave people and for men to blame women for stirring up males' sexual desires, we have to stick to it word-for-word thousands of years later. Not cool. Our species has evolved socially, we've learned many new things, humans of every stripe have to live differently together today than we did thousands of years ago. The sheer volume of humans on the planet now necessitates it. You can still embrace the core message of Islam without adhering to ancient prejudices, and the veil is an extremely public display of the idea that if women do not cover up their attractive bits, it's their own fault if they get sexually attacked.
At it's core, the male-initiated pressure for some Muslim societies to use collective shame as a tool to subjugate women. The face veil is not a "curtain", as some supporters euphemistically characterize it, it's purely and simply a public poster that says: "I've given in to the males in my family and culture who choose to blame women for their aggressive sexual tendencies." It also says: "We new Canadians do NOT trust Canadian laws, police and judicial system to keep us safe and grant us the same freedoms as women from other cultures. Covering my face is a symbol of my family and culture's ongoing support for our 'old country's' moral values and laws that put women in jail if they 'allow themselves' to be raped, then force them to marry the rapist."
This is Canada in the 21st century. It's not your fault you're beautiful, it is mine if I decide to attack you. Cover your hair if you like the religious symbolism, but you don't have to fear being attacked or ostracized for having the freedom from male repression to be seen for who you are in this country. You are not a slut for not veiling your face, you're a modern Canadian citizen, be proud of that.