Canadian Conservative backbencher Larry Miller has apologised for saying Muslim women who do not want to remove their face coverings when taking the citizenship oath should "stay the hell where [they] come from".
The incident occurred on a local call-in radio show where there was an ongoing debate about Zunera Ishaq, a woman who is fighting in court for the right to wear the niqab at her citizenship ceremony.
"Frankly if you're not willing to show your face in a ceremony that you’re joining the best country in the world… if you don’t like that or don’t want to do that, stay the hell where you came from," Miller said.
"That’s maybe saying it a little harshly, but that’s the way I feel."
Miller issued a written apology on 17 March.
"Yesterday I made comments on a radio show that I recognize were inappropriate,” he said.
"I stand by my view that anyone being sworn in as a new citizen of our country must uncover their face. However, I apologize for and retract my comments that went beyond this."
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said Miller’s remarks followed "a sadly unsurprising pattern of inflammatory rhetoric from the government seemingly designed to keep the electorate focused on identity politics in order to distract them from broader issues in an election year".
Amira Elghawaby, human rights co-ordinator with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, told CTV Power Play that Miller’s comments were anti-immigrant and anti-Canadian.
"(Canadian) values include freedom of choice, freedom of religion, freedom of expression,” she said. "These women do show their face for security purposes, so there’s really no harm for anyone at all."
Elghawaby said she was worried that such comments from political leaders could expose Muslims to harassment and discrimination.
"I’m not really sure why the leaders keep bringing this up, keep fanning the flames with this kind of rhetoric," she said. "It’s really disturbing."
"[Wearing a niqab] is not something I, for example, believe is intrinsic in my practice,” she added.
"But it’s just not my place or anyone’s place - or the state’s place - to dictate what women should or should not be wearing."