French President Nicholas Sarkozy has taken a potentially inflammatory and radical stance against religious fundamentalism by forwarding legislation to the French parliament calling for an outright ban of the wearing of the burka in public.

Without a doubt the recent developments of Belgian Authorities to restrict the wearing of the Muslim veil by women has given further mettle to his cause. The home affairs committee of the Brussels federal parliament voted unanimously to ban the partial or total covering of faces in public places. Although the Belgians may have beaten him to the punch, Sarkozy has been a long time advocate of developing secularism and may play a prominent  influential role on the transferability of a burka ban to other member states .

Sarkozy has drawn a line in the sand where faith does not triumph above freedom. The move if passed, and likely so in a progressive secularist society such as France, could have far-reaching global ramifications. Sarkozy has effectively declared the Islamic dress as a direct victimization of women and a religiously imposed shackle on the independence of its wearers.

Fundamentalist factions of Islam, may see this a further rallying cry for extremist support. Their own perceived belief that Western Hegemony has infiltrated most sections of society and acts a direct derogation and threat to their beliefs will no doubt be bellowed from extreme pulpits. Inevitable these extremists will hold up Sarkozy’s actions as an amplification of this notion.

Many may argue that the very presence and wearing of the burka is an expression of religious and personal freedom. However the French premier arguments are based on the premise that the wearing of the garment is an obligation, effectively hides the women from public, acts a major obstacle to public interaction and alienates them from civil society. These arguments combined with the clandestine nature of the burka and its association as an effective disguise for suicide bombers all add to a compelling argument . All of which could easily persuade legislators, who are on a constant edge regarding terrorist activity and public safety.

Sarkozy in parallel with his Belgian counterparts has laid down a potential legislative precedent that could translate to a European law or at the very least put it right in the face of the E.U technocrats, causing many headaches in the process.

It raises a fundamental argument that highlights the complexity of cultural integration. In order to be a part of society and enjoy the benefits it has to offer one most comply by its rules and adjust their lifestyle to participate amicable with its other members.

Due to a catalogue of incidents of reactionary extremism, governments are increasingly sensitive to the ramifications of intrusive policies directed at religious practices, particular in the Islamic community. The actions of Sarkozy may demonstrate a bold example to political leaders unwilling and arguable afraid to engage in progressive reforms regarding the role of religion in their collective societies.

Sarkozy may have instigated a new wave of secularism that could have far-reaching consequences across European civil society as a whole and act as a platform for a more heavy-handed approach to governmental determination of religion’s role in the lives of its citizenry.

Many governmental agencies particularly the British will wait with bated breath to see if the French and Belgians can create an effective paradigm and they will look closely at the consequences good and bad that will arise from its implementation.

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