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Opinion: Why France is right about the burqa

The burqa has nothing to do with religion. It is a way for fanatical men to control women.

A protestor attends a demonstration against the ban on Muslim women wearing the burqa in public in The Hague, Nov. 30, 2006. (Toussaint Kluiters/Reuters)

PARIS, France — In his 2009 Cairo address to the Muslim world, U.S. President Barack Obama mentioned no fewer than three times the issue of the headscarf, or hijab. Each time, his purpose was to stress "the right of women and girls to wear the hijab" — but never their right not to wear it.

Needless to say, Obama’s stance did not gain him popularity among a large portion of Muslim women who had been angling to be free of the hijab  for quite some time.

In truth, many Muslim women seek relief from the pressure to cover themselves. It is these sentiments that led to France's initial law in 2004 that banned all exterior religious signs, not just Muslim ones, from public schools. And it is these sentiments that have pushed France to currently consider the partial burqa ban in public spaces — and rightfully so.

The ban on the burqa — the outer garment that covers a woman from head to toe — denounces a practice that has nothing to do with religion, but rather is a way for fanatical men to have dominion over women. If passed, France's partial burqa ban will protect a woman's right to freedom and dignity. She will no longer be obliged to cover herself, but can do so in some instances if she chooses to. (Here's an opposing viewpoint on why France is wrong to consider the burqa ban.)

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has made his stance crystal clear, saying the burqa is not “welcome in France” and that it “is not a religious issue but rather a question of freedom and of women’s dignity.”

Fadela Amara, his secretary of state for urban policies and herself a Muslim, echoed his opinion: "The burqa confiscates a woman's existence. By and large, those who wear it are victims. I favor banning this coffin for women's basic liberties. The burqa is proof of the presence of Muslim fundamentalists on our soil and of the politicization of Islam."

Abdelali Mamoun, an imam in Guyancourt, near Paris, also concurs, saying that the Islamists are behind this trend. Of them he said, "Even if they are not jihadists, they hate the West, they spit on the kuffars, the infidels, but they take advantage of all the French social services."

France has come under fire for being intolerant of Muslims — interestingly, by both radical Muslims and American pundits. But in actuality, Europe and a number of Muslim countries are already moving in France’s direction.

For example, in the Netherlands, a law bans the burqa in schools and public transportation; in Sweden, Italy, Luxembourg and some Belgian cities, the burqa is theoretically banned altogether and Egypt’s religious Al-Azhar University has just banned the niqab (full-face veil) stating that it has nothing to do with the Koran. Gamal al-Banna, the Egyptian brother of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, goes further: "Neither the Koran, nor the hadith require women to wear a headscarf."

Tunisia is another Muslim country actively going after the hijab. In 2006, President Ben Ali, feeling the growing influence of Islamists in Tunisian society through the rapid increase of hijabs, reactivated a 1981 decree banning the wearing of the hijab in government offices, schools, universities, and public places in general.