On April 11, 2011, France became the first European country to ban the burqa or niqab in public places. While ‘offenders’ face a relatively inconsequential fine, this new law speaks volumes. At the heart of it, it’s a human rights issue.

In this day and age, we live and interact in a society consisting of a confluence of cultures and religions. It is part of our daily lives. Most of us learn to respect and accept each others’ differences. After all, how we express our beliefs is our right as long as we are not hurting anyone. So, should the government have the power to intervene into religious practices, thereby eliminating the separation of church and state?

I can understand the reasons why France took this controversial action. It’s a measure that many countries have contemplated. The War on Terror has been going on for years now, and there does not seem to be an end in sight. A majority of the known ‘terrorists’ we are fighting are Muslims, where a good number of the women wear the veils. From a security point of view, this new law allows policing bodies to more easily identify any known terrorists or people with any links to terrorism. But I think it is deeper than just security. Call me a sceptic, but as with all significant law changes, there is always a hidden political agenda. The French Prime Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy’s, popularity has received a beating while the far-right party, the French National Front Party, Front National (FN), has been on the rise. Some believe this move is one way Nicolas Sarkozy hopes to gain the votes of those who are turning to far-right beliefs in next year’s national election.

However, the French government claims that wearing such veils, and those who force women to wear these veils, is a form of enslavement and oppression. I had recently written about a Saudi Women’s way of life, whereby certain liberties we western women have that are out of reach for them. So, could this controversial law really be in the best interests of the Muslim women? Is this law ethical and justifiable? Or has France gone too far?