Could you imagine if George W. Bush proposed a ban on Islamic veils? The French and other "cultured" European countries would be looking down their noses at us ugly Americans more than they already do. Granted, if you are a Muslim, we have, will or may invade your country, but rest assured if you ever come to America you can wear anything your heart desires.
Earlier this week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered legislation that would prohibit women from wearing Islamic veils in all public places. In a baffling attempt to fight for individual liberty, he has proposed to restrict it. He called the practice an affront to French values and said it degraded women, yet he is banning something many Muslim women find sacred, something critical to their value system.
As if Mr. Sarkozy should preach to anyone about values. What if society stripped from him something near and dear to his heart? I could just picture the look of shock on the French President's face after hearing news about a proposed ban on mistresses, then screaming "Mon Dieu!" in an ironic plea to the divine.
Belgium was the first country to propose this preposterous ban which, if enacted, Amnesty International said might violate International Human Rights laws. Italy and the Netherlands have indicated they are going to join the fray as Western culture takes a step backwards. Islamic scholar Michael Privot in the French newspaper Le Soir put it best:
"Belgium now joins Iran and Saudi Arabia in that exclusive but unenviable rare club of countries to impose a dress code in the public domain."
Just as with Muslims and Christians, I do believe there are secular fundamentalists, and in France this lot is now infringing on one's right to religious expression, at least it would seem. However, as Peter Berkowitz pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, it might not be an extreme notion in France, considering Article 1 of the French Constitution outright declares itself a secular republic, which he said differs slightly from the way Americans view separation of church and state:
"For many French, laicite, roughly translated as national secularism, has acquired a militant meaning, according to which government must confine religion to the private sphere."
However, Sarkozy doesn't even hide behind the guise of secularism because it is so obvious the proposed law is discriminatory against a specific practice of a particular faith -- an accusation French government officials have not tried to deny.
The reality is, for Sarkozy, this fight isn't about principles at all, but rather politics. France's five million Muslims make it Western Europe's largest Islamic population, and a growing portion of French citizenry have come to perceive these immigrants as taking advantage of the welfare state while refusing to integrate and take on the mores and norms of French society. After his party was beaten badly in regional elections in March and as Sarkozy's poll numbers continue to plummet, he now realizes he must win over the extremist anti-immigration bloc.
This is shameful because Sarkozy fails to see how this issue goes beyond France's borders and is more important than his political survival. International forces are fighting a war of public opinion more than anything else in Afghanistan, thus Mullah Omar smiles every time he learns a Western country has imposed such laws because it shows the so-called liberal nations of the world aren't as tolerant as they claim to be, specifically towards Islam as it is practiced in Afghanistan where burqas are still commonly seen. Not to mention how French Muslims in the army must feel about fighting and dying for a country that does not respect their faith.
The Taliban are thought to be one of the most oppressive regimes on earth because of brutish laws like the one that forces women to wear burqas. Does forcing women to remove them make us any better? Abdellatif Lemsibak, a member of the National Federation of Muslims of France said:
"It's a transgression, an aggression even, on the level of personal liberty. The Muslims have the right to an orthodox expression of their religion... it shocks me."
It should shock anyone who truly believes in personal freedom. And who would have suspected the land of Marianne, the nation of liberty, equality and fraternity would strip away individual rights? I know the French are more sexually liberated than Americans, especially their President, but even Mr. Sarkozy has gone too far in forcing women to publicly disrobe by writ.
If this ban does go through, I will have had it with the French. If and when it is passed into law, then I think it will be an appropriate time to come together as Americans in non-violent protest and start referring to our pommes frites as "freedom fries".