France's recent "burqa ban" unveils the ignorance surrounding Islam, an ignorance shared by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. President Nicolas Sarkozy's push to ban the face-veil, the niqab – put into effect last week – shocks Western elites. Legislating self-expression is surely more the provenance of draconian states like Iran and Saudi Arabia, than secular La France. To many, Mr. Sarkozy's France smacks of uncivilized intolerance. But is Sarkozy really so wrong?
I first saw a veiled woman when I was six, possibly seven. Fascinated, and – never having seen anything like this – frightened, I looked up at my father, who explained she was from Arabia. Like us, he told me, she too was a Muslim.
Thirty-five years later, veiled women no longer catch the eye of pluralistic Muslim families like mine. Instead, in an extraordinary distortion of social mores, I find they now symbolize all of us, even assimilated, heterodox Muslim women like me.