Sarkozy Disses Burqa

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy is right in his analysis of the Islamic garment known as the burqa or niqab; while there are a few women who wear this clothing of their own free will, most of the time the burqa is a symbol of extreme fundamentalism and subjugation of women: Sarkozy says burqas are ‘not welcome’ in France.

PARIS – President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Monday that the Islamic burqa is not welcome in France, branding the face-covering, body-length gown as a symbol of subservience that suppresses women’s identities and turns them into “prisoners behind a screen.”

But there was a mixed message in the tough words: an admission that the country’s long-held principle of ethnic assimilation — which insists that newcomers shed their traditions and adapt to French culture — is failing because it doesn’t give immigrants and their French-born children a fair chance.

In a high-profile speech to lawmakers in the historic chateau at Versailles, Sarkozy said the head-to-toe Muslim body coverings were in disaccord with French values — some of the strongest language against burqas from a European leader at a time when some Western officials have been seeking to ease tensions with the Muslim world.

“In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity,” Sarkozy said to extended applause of the lawmakers gathered where French kings once held court.

“The burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement — I want to say it solemnly,” he said. “It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”

Where the French get it very wrong, though, is in the idea that they can ban and legislate these misogynistic power symbols out of existence.

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