Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s strong position against face-covering veils worn by some Muslim women has spurred backlash online and a trending Twitter hashtag.

Canadians are sharing their sarcastic responses to Harper with #DressCodePM.

The hashtag, started by Globe and Mail columnist Tabatha Southey, took off after the prime minister turned up his rhetoric against the niqab in the House of Commons on Tuesday.



Harper reiterated his belief that wearing the face veil during citizenship ceremonies is “offensive” to “most Canadians.” He also said the niqab is “rooted in a culture that is anti-women.”

Twitter users have decided to challenge those comments by asking the prime minister if he approves of their attire:

Amira Elghawaby of the National Council of Canadian Muslims told CTV News Channel Wednesday that she “respectfully disagrees” with Harper’s statements about the niqab.

“What I actually think is anti-women is for the state or anyone at all to be telling women what they can or cannot wear,” she said.

Elghawaby noted that in some countries around the world, women are forced to adhere to certain dress codes and that must be condemned.

But she said there’s nothing wrong with the “tiny minority” of women who choose to wear the niqab “as long as they are identifying themselves for security purposes, which they do.”

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was more blunt Wednesday, accusing Harper of using “inflated language to divide people.”

“Right now, we’re in an unprecedented situation where the prime minister of Canada is using very divisive language and singling out a community,” Mulcair told reporters in Ottawa.

“When he talks about a culture of 1.8 billion human beings as being anti-women…that’s very divisive and it’s irresponsible and it’s undignified from a Canadian prime minister.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who delivered a strongly worded speech this week accusing Harper of fostering fear and prejudice against Muslims, said Canadian leaders must defend people’s rights.

“It is my responsibility to call out the prime minister for what I feel is conduct unbecoming of a Canadian prime minister, who should be much more focused on pulling people together than highlighting division and fear,” Trudeau told reporters Wednesday.

When Trudeau later raised the issue during question period, Harper responded by quoting some Muslim groups that have disagreed with the Federal Court’s ruling that forcing a woman to remove her niqab during a citizenship ceremony is unlawful.

“These are not the views only of the overwhelming majority of Canadians, they are the views of the overwhelming majority of moderate Muslims,” Harper said in the House.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement also defended Harper’s stance on Wednesday and accused Trudeau of trying to politicize the issue.

Clement said conduct at citizenship ceremonies has to be “consistent with Canadian values, including gender equality,” and the prime minister has made a fair point about that.