US Catholic Faith in Real Life

What's French for a really bad idea?

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

As a rule I'm all for the separation of church and state, but I think the French are going all funny over the burqa. The government is currently considering a gradual ban on the burqa--the full-body covering some Muslim women wear--because, as French president Nicolas Sarkozy put it, according to the AP, they are "a problem of security and public order" and "exclude women from the national community, [and] deny their identity."

So let me get this right: It's OK for people to completely cover their bodies in tatoos, pierce every orifice, dye their hair in rainbow colors, and lie naked on French beaches, but women who, for religious reasons, want to cover themselves in fabric would be breaking the law?

I don't say this too often, but I'll say it now: This is why America is great. The combination of freedom of expression and religion means that we can do what we please when it comes to dress, whether motivated by religious belief or dissatisfaction with our natural hair color. Women at my bank, grocery store, and dry cleaners wear hijab (head scarves), and occasionally I've seen more substantial coverings--and bully for them if that's how they choose to live their religion.

It may be that sexism rather than religion motivates some religious practices--a charge few religious communities could dodge, by the way--but outlawing burqas is a secularizing step too far, and a contradiction to a true understanding of human rights. This idea should go straight to le garbage.