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June 23rd, 2009
01:27 PM ET

In battle of the burqa, Obama and Sarkozy differ

Howard LaFranchi
The Christian Science Monitor

In the battle of the burqa, the two Western presidents from two international defenders of freedom, France and America, are finding no common ground.

On Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy forcefully condemned the burqa, the traditional female dress for some segments of Islam that covers a woman from head to toe, as a form of enslavement. And he vowed to ban it from the French republic.

Mr. Sarkozy's position, offered in a speech to Parliament, followed by less than a month American President Obama's opposite take on the subject of covering by Muslim women.

In his Cairo speech to the Muslim world earlier this month, Mr. Obama called on Western countries "to avoid dictating what clothes a Muslim women should wear," saying such action constituted "hostility" towards religion clothed in "the pretense of liberalism."

To seal the Franco-American fashion debate, the issue subsequently divided the two leaders – both male, it should be noted – when they met in Normandy to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day on June 6.

Having suffered the lightning wrath of some French women's groups for his Cairo comments, Obama reiterated: "Our basic attitude [in America] is that we're not going to tell people what to wear."

Sarkozy's response was also based on a defense of freedom, though from a different perspective. "A young woman can wear a head scarf," he said, "provided that's a decision she made freely and had not been forced on her by her family or entourage."

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soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. JIM S

    Our socialist president got it wrong. Then again, I believe Barack Hussein Obama is a muslim. That probably should answer the question. Sarkozy's comment is regarding wearing burqas in France. In my opinion, it is humilitiating to women. I wonder how many of these muslim women voluntarily wear burqas. I never thought I would agree with the president of France over ours. This time I do agree with Sarkozy.

    June 23, 2009 at 9:10 pm |
  2. earle,florida

    French President Sarkozy is absolutely correct on banning the "Burqa", in public, (Note: in public only) but should openly endorse the wearing of the "Veil" in public, or in private. I have a very close friend that lives in Paris,and their are huge numbers of mid-eastern nationalist,and Arab's (Saddam Hussein,and Osama Ben Laden were Muslim Sunni's) that are mostly Sunni's (Islamic/Muslim's) living about town,and throughout France. I myself would fear for my life, not knowing if underneath the Burqa was a strapped-on-bomb to a terrorist female, (there's no way of telling,except to err on the safe side,and ban their use) or male! In America we don't have the overwhelming concentration of Arab's,and mid-eastern foreign nationalist living in such concentrated quarters.

    June 23, 2009 at 8:43 pm |