Rabea Chaundhry, an American Muslim woman, responds to Sarkozy’s attempt to ban the burqa in France:

The French government’s actions are remnants of the colonial mindset; Sarkozy’s comments not only belittle the capacity and autonomy of Muslims around the world, they also seek to impose an interpretation of Islam onto the Muslims in his country.  It’s as if the French government is saying to it’s five Million Muslims: “You can stay here as long as you let us tell you what your religion is really about and where you are allowed to practice it.” This type of dehumanization and reduction of the Muslim identity and intellect will not streamline the integration of Muslims into western societies; it will only further the stigmatization of the Muslim “other” as morally and cognitively inferior.

Although I personally believe that the burqa is too often used as a tool of oppression against Muslim women around the world, particularly in societies in which women are most at risk and vulnerable, the French government does not have the right or the appropriate authority to speak about what my religion is.  If Sarkozy had spoken about the burqa as private citizen, and not a president, I might have agreed with him.  But the moment he turned Muslim religious interpretation and Muslim dress into a policy issue, he violated not only the fundamentals of his nation’s secularism but also the integrity and humanity of Muslims around the world.  He took away our right to speak for ourselves by presuming that he could speak on our behalf.  And although a burqa ban would work in my best interest as a Muslim woman who sees nothing fair or just or beautiful in “religious” mandates obligating women to experience life through burqas, I recognize that a secular government’s interpretation of any “Islamic” mandate represents the high likelihood of even greater infringements of Muslims’ right to practice our religion in the future.

Read the full post here.