Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

France's Proposed Burqa Ban: Why Americans Might Want to Consider It Too

5 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
Ban the burqa?

The French Parliament just completed six months of hearings promoted by a member of Parliament on the so-called burqa controversy. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made no secret of his dislike for the Afghan-style garb and full-face veils, calling them "a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement."

At first, Sarkozy wanted burqas banned in all instances, but he has now stepped back to a more moderate position, seeking to have Parliament pass a law banning the full-body veil in public places and on public transportation. France, we should all remember, passed a law in 2004 banning young girls from wearing headscarves in public schools.

The burqa discussion has roiled this nation of 64 million -- some one-tenth of whom are Muslims. Sarkozy has declared that in a country where women enjoy equal rights, he does not want to see those rights debased. Only several thousand French women wear the garment, most coming from communities made up of Muslims who emigrated from former French protectorates.

But the issue of the burqa, what it symbolizes and how it resonates with immigration policies here in the U.S., raises some serious questions. Is it a sign of repression, even when the wearers aver they have "chosen" to don it? What is the impact of a woman's wearing of a burqa or a headscarf on other women in that society? These are deeply personal questions to which every woman (and man) will have a very different answer.

I have been to the Middle East more than a dozen times and have studied this issue both here and abroad. I must say that when visiting countries such as Egypt and Morocco, where native women cover all but their faces, I am not likely to go out in public in shorts and a T-shirt, as I do here at home. Some culturally tone deaf Western tourists do dress as if they're touring Disneyland, but most have the presence of mind to cover up somewhat, out of respect for another country's culture, beliefs and tradition.

I often wish Muslim immigrant women would repay the courtesy here in the U.S. Whenever I see a woman in full body garment or head scarf -- and there are plenty of them in my community, where there are many immigrants -- I take it as an affront.

I say this knowing it is highly controversial to do so, but it feels to me as if they are holding American women back. The women in my neighborhood do not cover their faces, but many go outside -- even in the stifling Washington, D.C., summers -- in full-body coverings. I wish they would adopt a "When in Rome . . ." approach and make full use of the freedoms granted to women in this great nation.

In fact, I wish the U.S. would pre-screen for women who want to take full advantage of the freedoms they gain by moving from a society that represses women to one that does not. Immigration is a privilege and not a right.

I remember speaking to a group of Westernized Iranian women years ago, not long after the Iranian Revolution of the late 1970s. One told me, "We loved our shah and do not want to see women pushed back into ancient times and dress codes under the Ayatollah."

Much more recently, an Iranian feminist told me that Iranian émigrés wearing full-body garb in this country are making an anti-Western statement by so doing. Indeed, the French inquiry into the burqa controversy supports that view, as reported by the Washington Post:
"Although veiled women are estimated to number no more than several thousand in this country of 64 million, [French Parliament Member Andre] Gerin said, behind them are what he called 'gurus' who are trying to impose Islamic law on French society.

"For instance, Gerin said, doctors at the Mother and Child Hospital in Lyon told him during a visit that they are threatened several times a week by angry Muslim men who refuse to allow their pregnant wives or daughters to be treated by male doctors, even for emergency births when nobody else is available. 'The scope of the problem is a lot broader than I thought,' he said at a news conference summing up his findings. 'It is insidious.' "
I have interviewed American Muslims, both immigrants and native-born converts, who say they choose to wear headscarves or full-body coverings. Some of them are highly educated and could easily have chosen not to do so. But, to me, many of them seemed to have ulterior motives -- motives based on acceptance into a community or by a man who provides emotional or financial support. A true choice? Perhaps, but a heavily freighted one as well.

There are many factors complicating my argument to follow France's lead: France has a historical and more knotty relationship with residents of its former colonies than we do with our Islamic émigrés. I've been asked why I am so opposed to Islamic coverings, but tolerate Catholic nuns' habits. That is fodder for subsequent columns. For now, I advise Americans to study the results of the French inquiry and launch a public debate about which lessons learned pertain to our culture.
Outbrain - The Most Trusted Content Discovery Platform

Get Your Content Discovered.

Promote your content on premium websites

Learn More ›

Outbrain Amplify:
Get your content discovered

Your content will be promoted on the web's largest and most respected media properties, including, Slate and ESPN. We make sure it's seen precisely when people will find it most interesting.

Learn More

Outbrain Engage: The solution for a modern publisher

Outbrain Engage is a full stack software solution that empowers an entire media organization to more effectively manage its online content and programming experience.

Learn More

The world's largest content discovery platform

We bring together premium publishers and marketers of all sizes (including many of the world's leading brands) into the world's largest and most vibrant content marketplace. Learn more about Outbrain ›

561 Million

The global audience reached by Outbrain each month*

190 Billion

The total recommendations we serve consumers monthly


Of the world’s leading brands use Outbrain

* Audience reach according to comScore, September 2014. Leading brands via Ad Age DataCenter / Kantar Media, 2014.

Andy Blau
We selected Outbrain not only because the revenues were higher than others, but because its engine drives better recommendations than others.
Andy Blau
Senior Vice President, Group General Manager
Time Inc.
Dan Horowitz
It's less about buying traffic than it is about reaching the right people with relevant headlines to get them to your content.
Dan Horowitz
EVP and Senior Partner
Fleishman-Hillard Digital
Katrina Craigwell
Our goal is always to deliver content that adds value to the conversations being held by the end user. Outbrain allows us to do just that.
Katrina Craigwell
Global Manager of Digital Marketing
Bailey Foote
The fact that we’re able to drive these kinds of transactions with consumers at scale and with increasing efficiency has made Outbrain paramount to our marketing strategy.
Bailey Foote
E-commerce Manager
The Line
Neal Moore
You cannot leave it to chance that someone will find and engage with your content. Outbrain can put your content in the midst of the world’s most prestigious publications.
Neal Moore
Zach Zavos
Having links to our content appearing directly on premium publisher sites helped us establish our brand.
Zach Zavos
Conversant Media
Mike Brito
Outbrain is one of those [critical] components helping us deliver the right messages to the right contingent at massive scale and in real time to counter a crisis.
Mike Brito
Group Director

A global footprint of service

We operate offices in 11 global territories and we partner with publishers and marketers in over 55 countries, including the U.S., UK, France, Brazil, India and Japan. Come join us ›

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum Comment Moderation Enabled. Your comment will appear after it is cleared by an editor.

1 Comment

Filter by:

Thank you so much for this article. I'm French and former muslim and it said in the article, the invasion is insiduous. Muslims for most of them refuse the western civilization, they immigrate in those countries to benefits from their generous system (education, health care etc.)that they can't find in their countries but they desire also to change those modern societies to the muslim system. They do so by gaining points, piece by piece, law after law. They have the time in their sides and those (like the Socialists in France) who have a very permissive, naive and angelic vision of the situation. If Westerners don'nt wake up, soon, we will see a different model of society close to the ones in the Middle East. In France for example, in some towns, Muslims requested that the swimming pools should be opened at certain hours during the day only for females and other hours for males and they can't tolerate the two genders to mix. At school, they asked that certain subjects can't be taught in class like subjects related to sexuality. They have more and more requests and they are more and more powerful.


August 12 2010 at 11:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Follow Politics Daily

  • Comics
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>