Despite what you may have heard, the "burqa" is not just a piece of cloth. Viewed by some Islamic traditions as a religious obligation that fulfils Islam's requirement for female modesty, to other more liberal Muslim schools of thought, it is a sign of fundamentalism that places disproportionate burden on women and girls.
As such, the obsession with discussing the face veil's place in western society misses the real issues that Muslims should be grappling with: What is the appropriate role and expression of modesty in 21st century Islam, and how can we navigate the tension between the right to practice religion freely and the right of women to not practice it all?
Last week, the burqa yet again again came under the spotlight. As Angela Merkel proposed a ban on the face veil in public spaces last week, Germany's highest court ruled against an 11-year-old female student and her parents who had objected to mandatory co-ed swimming lessons.