Here is an excellent op-ed, for the most part, about the French debate over the veil and the debate over national identity. The author, Raphael Liogier, attempts to deconstruct the French reaction to the veil and to address the debate on a human rather than on a political level. By taking this approach, he confronts his discomfort with the veil while at the same time acknowledging that this discomfort has more to do with him and his preconceptions than it has to do with those who chose to wear the veil.
"Je comprends l'angoisse, la peur de l'autre, et j'ajoute même que je peux parfois moi aussi l'éprouver, et être choqué par ces femmes qui s'obstinent à couvrir totalement leur corps en public, tout simplement parce que ce n'est pas ma culture, pas mon environnement, pas ma vie."
He goes on to express legitimate concern that should a law pass that bans the burqa, France would only be giving into anti-Republican impulses and would only serve those who support a fundamentalist ideology.
The part where he loses me, however, is his contradictory statement half way down the page. All of the sudden --despite his previous assertions that it is he who must confront his prejudices regarding the veil and the women who wear them and that France has no business forcing people to wear (or not wear in this case) in public--he reverts to stereotypes. As long as women don't seek to impose the veil on others, he asserts, or they aren't pressured into wearing it, then he doesn't have a problem with the veil.
First of all, I would be curious to know how many accounts there are of women physically going around trying to force non-Muslims to wear the veil. If he means in a more abstract sense (i.e. wearing the veil at all is a form of evangelizing) then the women are in a no-win situation. If they don't wear it, they will be rejecting an important part of their religious life and if they do wear it, they will be accused of forcing people to be like them. Both of which Liogier says he is opposed to and smacks of anti-democratic behavior.
Secondly, how will the average French citizen decide that women are being forced to wear the veil by their families? Will they go up and ask? Will they wait for the women to report this form of abuse to the police? If one women reports that she is being forced to wear the veil, will this mean reconsidering the ban?
I applaud Liogier's efforts to analyze the situation, as well as his own self-analysis, but hope that he can understand the contradictory nature of his opinions and figure out how to reconcile the two.
Hopefully he'll go for the more tolerant approach.