National Catholic Reporter

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Burqa in public places? Yes or No?

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The French cabinet last month approved legislation to ban women in France from wearing full Islamic face-coverings, the burqa, and niqab, in public areas. France, which contains Europe’s largest Muslim population, has been headed in this direction for a while.

President Nicolas Sarkozy says that his government is defending France’s secular values and protecting women's rights. His critics see Islamophobia and political opportunism behind the move and believe it is a sign that official France still does not fully accept citizens of immigrant origin.

So, is the wearing of a burqa contrary to Western values? Do people have a right to see the face of the person they are speaking with in a public arena? By allowing burqas in public places are Western societies giving in to repressive, anti-female, religious traditions? Is it right that Muslim women must cover their entire faces while men have no such restriction?

Or is the issue one of respecting all religious traditions and upholding those traditions regardless of whatever other isssues issues might be involved?

Is it the progressive view to respect all religious actions, however allegedly restrictive they might be, simply because it is part of a tradition?

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Why is it that the restrictions somehow get aimed at reducing the women's role or right in society, but not the men's?

What if Catholic women were ordered to return to wearing veils in churchs?

So how do you feel about a state's role in restricting the burqa in public places? Is such an action supportive of Western values - or against them.

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