Toronto’s 50 Most Influential: #31, Zunera Ishaq
Our annual ranking of the people whose smarts, connections and clout are changing the city as we know it
31 No one predicted a shy immigrant would end up altering the course of the 2015 federal election. Harper, hoping to energize a xenophobic swath of the electorate, challenged Ishaq’s right to wear the niqab during her oath of citizenship ceremony. Ishaq, a mother of four with a master’s in English lit and no particular desire for attention, might have caved. But she had chosen to wear the niqab as a girl in Pakistan and saw no logical reason to stop here. Harper doubled down, promising a “barbaric cultural practices” tip line. Ten days before election day, Ishaq recited her oath wearing whatever she felt like that day (it just happened to be a white and pink floral niqab). Now Harper’s out, Trudeau is in, and Ishaq is Canadian. Her life has returned to some degree of normalcy, but her impact endures.
Ishaq was an English literature lecturer for a year in Pakistan.