I don’t like the burqa. In fact, I think it’s appalling. I don’t like what it says about the place of women in the societies where it’s common. I like that the imam of the Grand Mosque of Paris says that the burqa (niqab, etc.) has no place in Islam — meaning, that it’s a cultural practice that has been theologized within Islam, not mandated by the religion itself.
But I also agree with the imam that the French state is not justified in compelling the relatively small number of Muslim women who wear the burqa to give it up. What are they hurting? I think their freedom of religion is more important, and it should be respected. Christian nuns in the pre-Sister Stretchpants era used to dress much the same way (minus the face veil), and traditional Catholic and Orthodox nuns still do. I understand the anxiety about radical Islam finding a foothold in France, and share that anxiety to a certain extent. But banning the burqa strikes me as unjust. Seventy percent of the French disagree, though, and support the new proposed law, which passed France’s lower house of parliament today with only a single dissenting vote.