The French march on the burqa

The French just seem to hate the burqa. A parliament report has recommended a ban of the burqa in certain circumstances.

In the end, the commission called on parliament to adopt a resolution stating that the all-encompassing veil was “contrary to the values of the republic” and proclaiming that “all of France is saying ‘no’ to the full veil”.

The National Assembly resolution would pave the way to legislation making it illegal for anyone to appear with their face covered at state-run institutions and in public transport, for reasons of security.

Women who turn up at the post office or any government building wearing the full veil would be denied services such as a work visa, residency papers or French citizenship, the report said.

It’s obvious this proposal has been inspired in part by fear of Islam, but it seems that there probably is some genuine concern for the equality of women.

I can sympathize with that concern; it’s obvious that the burqa is a tool used to tell women they are inferior. That’s it. Pat Condell goes off on this at some length. And I can sympathize with the need for national security. Where it is relevant, by all means ban the damn thing – at certain points within airports, in banks, etc. But where my sympathy for the French is entirely lost is with the rights and personal liberties of the individual. At no point should a government be allowed to intrude upon the right of any individual to dress in any sort of harmless manner. I hate the burqa as much as the next rational person, but I would hate to see it illegal for someone to freely practice her (or his) belief.

Sarkozy set the tone for the debate in June when he declared the burqa “not welcome” in France and described it as a symbol of women’s “subservience” that cannot be tolerated in a country that considers itself a human rights leader.

It is precisely that: a symbol. And should a woman be forced to wear this symbol by another person, that is a human rights violation. But if the woman chooses to wear an ugly mask, no government has the right to tell her otherwise.

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