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Unmasking the Truth

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“Liberty, next to religion has been the motive of good deeds and the common pretext of crime,” Lord Acton affirmed in the opening line of his speech, The History of Freedom in Antiquity. Liberty is a concept that invokes much ponderous thought. What are our natural rights? Do others deserve different freedoms? How far should a government be able to interfere in the lives of its citizens to ensure all are equal? In France, parliament believes it would beneficial to ban all veils that mask the face, including burqas wore by Muslim women, in public places. Initialing a ban on burqas will hinder the central liberties of Muslim women in France.


The French parliament believes that illegalizing burqas will allow the Islamic community to integrate more fluently into their society, but banning the burqa encourages discrimination against the French-Muslim people. Separation of church and state was meant to keep religion from dominating political procedures, but politics are now interfering with religious practices. Although the law is written to prohibit all face veils, it will primarily affect the Islamic community. Some believe the Qur’an mandates women wearing burqas in public settings. Those who follow this school of thought will feel pressure from their government to conceal other aspects of their religion. This law would eventually hurt the very people it is trying to defend.


President Sarkozy described the burqa as “suppressive” and “not welcome in France,” many French citizens agree with Sarkozy’s position on this issue; to them, it is a demeaning practice. The people of this republic respect the rights of women. The feminist movement is very active in France. One of the driving forces behind the feminist movement is for all women to feel represented by their governments. Out of the 200 citizens paneled by parliament on the bill only one woman wore a burqa. This is not a fair representation of the women that will be affected by the law.


While the French government believes it is promoting female justice, it is really advocating assimilation of its Muslim community into the dominant French culture. It is compulsory for a society to share a sense of unity, but let that alliance be rooted in sharing the same independence, rather than the same fashions. All citizens deserve to live in nation that encourages diversity and respects cultural differences.


A secular system of government has the capability to ensure that no person feels that their country is bias towards one group of people, positive or negative. Banning burqas will only affect 2,000 women, but those women deserve their rights. When you deny the rights of a few, all suffer the bitter taste of injustice. It is up to us as whole, burqa wearers or not, Muslim or non-religious, French or American, to make sure no one on planet Earth is denied their right to express themselves deliberately. We must defend the rights of all before we can truly exercise our own.





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