Tue Jun 23rd, 2009 at 03:56:14 PM EST
I think I missed out on the burqa conversation yesterday but I wanted to offer a way other than a ban that this issue could be addressed.
What the French want to do is to prevent girls and women from being forced by their various religious communities to wear a certain dress.
A very American solution would be to focus on protecting the rights of girls and women to opt-out of these requirements. This could be achieved by levying major penalties for discrimination against women who ignore the burqa rules, etc. Consider making persecution of those who choose not to dress in this manner akin to a 'hate crime' which is really just about increasing punishment for special circumstances.
Further you would need to invest deeply into outreach, providing paths out of the most restrictive cliques and being heavily engaged in those communities to counter the negative/restrictive lessons the society fears they are being taught with more optimistic opportunities elsewhere.
The best way to break a reclusive, cloistered minority is to enrich it and infiltrate it.
In addition the French can adopt the cultural symbols and adapt them. The burqa can be a nice fashion item and it should be co-opted as such in service of assimilation. Further the ban on wearing them within schools should be reinforced. Classify "hats" (which are typically banned to be worn in class) as "head coverings" and go from there. In consideration also ban and enforce displays of cross necklaces, etc. Get one catholic whining in the press about religious persecution over their cross and you'll neutralize the whining on the other side about the ban on headscarves.
As young people grow accustomed to not wearing the garments at school and find a society actively engaging their community to be less restrictive when they get home they'll find it more acceptable to wear these items as often or not as they please. One of the best ways to achieve this will be to find Arabs, North Africans, Persians and others who have chosen not to wear the garments (celebrities would be best) and show them as happy, successful and independent women role models. They don't need to openly advocate their position, just get their faces out there, smiling and happy, and let human nature do the rest.
Only isolation of these communities from the greater French society can maintain these rigid rules in the midst of a modern and open country.