On July 13, France's lower house of parliament voted 335 to 1 in favor of a law that would prohibit wearing the burqa, or any other clothing "intended to hide the face," in public. If the ban becomes law, will it liberate women or inflame religious extremism? Are burqa-ban proponents' concerns for national identity and national security outweighed by opponents' concerns for religious tolerance? National Review Online asked the experts — including Raymond Ibrahim, Judith Apter Klinghoffer, Melanie Phillips, Daniel Pipes, James V. Schall, Jonathan Schanzer, and Bat Ye'or — to weigh in.
JONATHAN SCHANZER: France's lower house of parliament should be commended for approving a ban on the burqa this week. The French senate is expected to pass the measure in September. Once enacted, the law will impose a small fine (about $200) on women wearing the veil. Men who force women to wear the burqa can be slapped with a €30,000 fine and even jail time. Anyone found forcing a minor to wear the burqa can be fined €60,000, with a longer prison sentence.
Critics call the move xenophobic, but there is nothing hateful about it. For one, burqas make identification exceedingly difficult at a time when security agencies need to check faces against names to prevent terrorism. The ban is also a nod to women's rights. As philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy notes, the burqa "communicates the subjugation, the subservience, the crushing, and the defeat of women." Finally, France has a right to defend itself from a burgeoning Muslim population (perhaps 10 percent) that seeks to impose elements of Islamic law that are inherently antithetical to Western values.
To read the comments by Ibrahim, Klinghoffer, Phillips, Pipes, Schall and Ye'or, click here.