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Obama vs. Sarkozy on Banning the Burqa By: Phyllis Chesler
Pajamas Media | Wednesday, June 24, 2009

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As far as I’m concerned, Frenchmen are back in vogue. Who could ever have predicted that the French president would stand up for women’s universal rights and for freedom as a universal right — while the American president would hang back, wait, temporize? It’s almost as if we’ve elected a Frenchman president of the United States — and an American-style president is ruling France.

Please contrast the following two speeches.

On June 22th, 2009, President Nicholas Sarkozy stated that he viewed the full-body burqa and niquab as a sign of the “debasement” of women and that it won’t be welcome in France. According to the glorious Sarkozy:

“In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity … The burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement — I want to say it solemnly, it will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”

France has Europe’s largest Muslim population, an estimated 5 million people. Many are hostile to the western enterprise, but some are in the vocal forefront of the fight for women’s and human rights. In 2004, France passed a law “banning the Islamic headscarf and other conspicuous religious symbols from public schools, sparking fierce debate at home and abroad.”

Now, contrast Sarkozy’s words with what President Obama said in Cairo on June 4th, 2009.

“Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations — to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.”

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Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the well known author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (2005). She has just published a new edition of Woman's Inhumanity to Woman (2009). She is an Emerita Professor of psychology and women's studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969) and the National Women's Health Network (1976). Her website is www.phyllis-chesler.com.

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