The many problems with France's proposed burqa ban.

Religion, spirituality, and sacrilege.
May 25 2010 2:37 PM

Veiled Threat

The many problems with France's proposed burqa ban.

View a  Magnum photo gallery of women wearing veils and protesting France's restrictions on Muslim headscarves.

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Already, the proposed ban has caused difficult and discriminatory consequences for Muslim women. Recently, a 26-year-old French woman wearing a burqa in France was verbally accosted, likened to the demon Belphegor, told to "clear off to [her] own country," and finally had her burqa ripped off by a 60-year-old female lawyer and her daughter. The lawyer's conduct found support from an allegedly liberal attorney in the United States, who admitted, "I was not deeply troubled [by the act.]"

This behavior is neither fraternal nor egalitarian, n'est-ce pas? One wonders whether people would react similarly if the government or individual citizens forcibly stopped gays from holding hands in public or engaged in vigilante-clothing justice by covering excessive cleavage or naked shoulders.

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Europe's paranoid fear of succumbing to Islamization and transforming overnight into "Eurabia" finds its improbable justification in "Muslim" symbols such as the burqa and mosque minarets on its soil. This includes the whopping four minarets in all of Switzerland that drove the country hysterical, and forced it to amend its constitution banning further construction of those oh-so-threatening tall spires. Recently, bills have been introduced in Italy to block the construction of new mosques around the country, similar to a ban already enacted in Milan.

In March, a study by the French American Foundation and the Paris Institute of Political Science revealed "evidence of discrimination [in France] due purely to religion, not national origin." A 2006 report from the EU Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia found that Muslims "face discrimination in all aspects of life, from housing to employment opportunities to education to cultural practices."

Instead of cowardly hiding behind vague notions of European culture and society to legislate discrimination against Muslim women, France should embrace its own constitution and ethos of equality by accepting its burqa-clad women as fraternal citizens who've earned the right to make their own choices. Any legitimate concerns that Europe has with the burqa and its Muslim citizenry require diplomacy and subtlety. But France is behaving like the Saudi Arabia of the EU by forcibly removing Muslim women's rights with a legislative guillotine.

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Wajahat Ali is the author ofThe Domestic Crusaders, a play about Muslim Pakistani-Americans that will be published by McSweeney's in the fall of 2010. He blogs atGoatmilkHe is an attorney, journalist, and commentator.

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