The French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, writing at The Huffington Post, wants the burqa banned (from public places) because “The burqa is not a dress, it's a message, one that clearly communicates the subjugation, the subservience, the crushing and the defeat of women.”
While I’m sympatico to the ‘woman aren’t chattel’ argument that BHL is making, and I don’t find the burqa a particularly attractive garment, unlike, say, a modest sari or a plain Amish dress, I don’t think Levy's argument is the appropriate reason to bar women of faith from covering their faces.
One of the commentators to Levy's piece, however, does makes the better case for burqa bans in non-Muslim societies.
Writes Joel Cohen: "People in Western society are not allowed to wear facial masks in public. Everyone has a civil right to be able to identify the person who sits next to him/her on a bus, or who shops next to him/her at the market, or who stops and asks for directions. This is a matter of civil security and civil peace, and has nothing at all to do with religion, ideology, Islam, Judaism, Christian Science, or any other such concern.
I do not think that in a democracy there are convincing arguments against the wearing of crosses, headscarves, turbans, yarmulkes, and other such accoutrements. People should be free to dress as they like, for tribal or religious or personal reasons. But masking the face is where the line must be drawn."
Laws, as Frederic Bastiat, another intellectual from France, once believed, should exist to protect an individual's person, property, and liberty. The proper role of government vs. social engineering.