The federal government is now requiring new Canadians who wear garments that cover their faces to remove them during the oath of citizenship.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney spoke to cultural groups about the value of Canadian citizenship in Montreal on Monday and said that the new ban includes the Islamic niqab or face veil.

Kenney said there have been complaints that it is difficult to say whether individuals are actually taking the oath if their faces are covered when doing so.

He also said that new Canadians should be taking the oath in front of fellow citizens.

"This is really a matter of pure principle -- which is at the heart of our public values," Kenney said in French. "The oath of citizenship is a public gesture."

Kenney said he did not believe that veils are a religious requirement for Muslim women in all circumstances.

"When Muslim women do the hajj to Mecca as part of their Koranic obligation of pilgrimage to the holy sites, they are required not to wear a veil. They are required to show their face," Kenney said in English. "So the notion that this is somehow a religious obligation, I don't accept."

A local Imam says this is just another example of how his religion is under fire in North America.

"Muslims are going through that situation right now that the Jews faced before the holocaust. Because intimidation of their faith, bad mouthing of their faith, bad mouthing about their book, bad mouthing about their beliefs. That was going on in Germany before the holocaust, same thing is happening now about Muslims. So this is absolutely an alarming situation that a few Islamophobes are winning," said Syed Soharwardy, Leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada.

Sohowardy says he thinks the announcement is nothing more than politics and that the government is trying to get this message out before a Supreme Court ruling is handed down on whether Muslim women are allowed to wear face coverings in court.

The ban takes effect immediately.

(With files from The Canadian Press and