When I was recently invited to speak at a debate at Ireland's University College of Cork on banning the burqa, I was a bit hesitant to accept the call to participate. I, for one, am not a woman, nor am I Muslim. Speaking on an issue that focuses specifically on Muslim women seemed to me like an odd and challenging task. Upon reading the invitation a second time, I contemplated my own reservations about the burqa. I have very strong feelings against any government that demands that their women be made to wear full-cover veils. This is absolutely repressive and should be challenged. But I also believe that targeting and penalizing women does not solve any problem. Though I may not support the burqa, I will definitely defend the right of Muslim women to wear one if they so wish.
Banning the burqa is an assault on the most basic human right of women having control over their own bodies and minds. I believe that the burqa is not the problem but a symptom of a larger problem of women feeling oppressed by men and pressured to conform to the objectification of women's bodies in Western societies.
Legislating against and criminalizing the burqa is not, as many critics argue, going to achieve gender parity in Western societies. Rather, banning the burqa is going to bully Muslim women into abandoning their cultural traditions, religious obligations, and political expressions.