In 2011, France campaigned to ban niqabs — face veils worn by Muslim women — in an effort that center-right President Nicolas Sarkozy said was critical in ensuring women’s rights. Much debated and contested, the veil ban — which affected only 2,000 women out of 5 to 6 million Muslims living in France — was supposedly an example of France doing the right thing: fighting the backwards Arab-Muslim traditions that oppress women. However, in doing so, it failed to recognize its own role in stripping women of their rights by enforcing a law restricting women’s dress and public behavior, without consideration of their preferences in the matter.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Muslim women have reported discrimination for their religious beliefs and way of dress. In 2009 alone, 425 Muslim women filed workplace discrimination complaints, a number that is on the rise. In one notable case , a 19-year-old Muslim college sophomore was fired from her position as a stockroom clerk at a Bay Area Hollister because she refused to take off her hijab, or headscarf, on the basis of religion. Unlike a cross or yarmulke, the Muslim veil has been the subject of numerous attacks and removal campaigns. It is the most visible sign of the Arab-Muslim culture and has long represented to the West the extremist views of Islam. However, it is not this piece of fabric but a conservative contingency that is truly the culprit in stripping women of their freedoms and futures.
Read the full op-ed at the Huffington Post