By Wajahat Ali
Posted Tuesday, May 25, 2010, at 2:37 PM ET
As a practicing Muslim, even I admit to being somewhat startled by the appearance of the black burqa that entirely veils a woman’s face and body, revealing only a narrow opening for her eyes. Even though the women who wear burqas sometimes remind me of comic book ninjas, I nonetheless understand and respect their choice of dress and freedom of religious expression.
Unfortunately, France’s proposed ban on the burqa is a hypocritical and self-serving justification that betrays its triptych motto of “liberty, equality, fraternity.” Politicians may claim that the ban would protect women’s dignity, national safety, and fundamental French values, but in reality, this overreaching legislation serves only to embolden reactionary Muslim fundamentalists’ shouts that the “West” is at war with “Islam.” Enacting this odious legislation would deprive French female citizens of those very freedoms Europe loudly trumpets as superior examples of its Western enlightenment: gender equality and tolerance. In fact, France is increasingly beginning to resemble its alleged cultural nemesis: those misogynist, archaic “fundamentalists” who allegedly liberate women by forcing them to hide their faces.
France, like many European countries, is reacting to the transformation of its national identity to one that is increasingly brown-hued and adorned with Arabic multisyllabic last names. But lashing out against native-born Muslim citizens and immigrants from North Africa is no way to protect and define its language and “culture”—which is under no tangible threat. Like the Taliban and the Saudi government, France is selfishly using women as silent chess pawns in the greater game of cultural domination and control, and using the canard of protecting women’s rights and national security as a means of rationalizing its bigotry. Continue reading