In a speech at the Palace of Versailles, Mr Sarkozy said that the head-to-toe Islamic garment for women was not a symbol of religion but a sign of subservience for women.
"The burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience," he told members of both parliamentary houses gathered for his speech.
He added: "It will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic."
Why the hell not? What business is it of Sarkozy's, or really anyone's, what a woman chooses to wear? As long as she is not physically or mentally abused or threatened into wearing it -- and my guess is many Muslim women who wear it in the West aren't abused or threatened -- then who the hell cares? How is it any of Sarkozy's or the state's business?
People like Sarkozy make life very difficult for people like me. When I argue for a secular system of governance in Pakistan (a pipe dream, I know, but humor me for a bit), I take care to mention that secularism is not the absence of religion from society. It is merely the politico-legal separation of religion and state, so that (a) everyone is free to practice their religion however they choose without interference from the state, and (b) no one is impelled to practice a certain type of religion as a requirement as a citizen.
When I am met with the argument that "Pakistan will never be secular because we are a religious people" I am at a loss for words because the second part of the statement is a non-sequitur. You can be religious and secular at the same time. There is no contradiction there. You can pray five times a day, grow a beard to your navel (if you're a man), cover yourself in a burqa or niqab (if you're a woman) and still live in a secular society. The two concepts are not opposed. I can't emphasize this point enough.
Unfortunately, the mistake many religious people make in Pakistan in delegitimizing secularism is the exact same mistake people like Sarkozy make: they think of secularism as the absence of religion, when it is anything but. This irony is both tragic and comical. Essentially, when I scream my head off at mullah types in Pakistan that they should mind their own goddamn business if a woman chooses to wear a tank top and jeans, and when I shake my head at Sarkozy types and ask that they mind their own goddamn business if a woman chooses to wear a burqa, I am arguing against ideological bedfellows, both totalitarians in their own way.