Should France Ban the Burqa?
The threat of Islamic extremism has prompted a controversial proposal.


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.

That France is moving toward banning the burqa is a positive development on several fronts. Arguments against the burqa are many — it is anachronistic, misogynistic, etc. — but not least important is the fact that there have been many instances worldwide of criminals and Islamic terrorists facilitating their activities by concealing their identities via the burqa (which, of course, was originally designed for female “modesty”).

Incidentally, what if the shoe were on the other foot? Would the Muslim world, which has problems with something as inoffensive as churches being built, permit a distinctly Western custom on its soil, especially one that poses a security threat?

Moreover, according to former Islamists, a direct correlation exists between radical Islam and burqas — that is, wherever there is an increase in the former, there follows an increase in the latter, which is seen as a physical manifestation of radicalism.

However, where the Western infidel bans the burqa, the Islamists’ options become limited: stay in places like France and be forced to conform; insist on the burqa and, as a matter of priorities, return to accommodating Muslim countries; or forego the burqa, in compliance with secular laws, but continue to harbor Islamist beliefs in a state of taqiyya.

Ultimately, the burqa ban is a reminder that those religions that do not “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s” will always be at odds with secular societies. The burqa is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sharia mandates that conflict directly with secularism.

Raymond Ibrahim is editor of The Al Qaeda Reader.

France is not banning the burqa; it is in the midst of a process to ban “face covering” in public. Of course, everybody knows that the real target is the growing tendency of Muslim women to wear a face covering, also known as the niqab. Still, the reference to “face covering” not only demonstrates a wish to avoid singling out Muslims but also points to the essential objection the state has to the niqab. France has always been an open communal society; to become French, one has to share basic French values. That was Napoleon’s message to Jewish leaders in 1806. It is Nicolas Sarkozy’s message to Muslims in 2010.

Prejudice, you’d say. A fear of a significant erosion of French social cohesion, I would answer. It is difficult, if not impossible, to trust someone whose face is covered, and, as Francis Fukuyama so well argues, a high level of trust is a necessary component of the social cohesiveness modern states need to function well in the global market economy. Of course, there is nothing Islamists would like better than to undermine modern states and replace them with a Muslim ummah, and they know that such a transformation will take time. The niqab is one way Islamists seek to prevent the Muslim diaspora from becoming part of a non-Islamist circle of trust. Banning the face veil is one way the French state seeks to defend itself.

Other states are doing the same, and many more are bound to join. These face-covering laws mean that modern states have started to take the Islamist challenge seriously.

Judith Apter Klinghoffer is an affiliate professor at Haifa University and co-author of International Citizens’ Tribunals: Mobilizing Public Opinion to Advance Human Rights.