Targeting a mere handful of Muslim women in a ridiculous attempt at making gains in the popularity polls is all grist for the mill as far as French President Nicolas Sarkozy appears to be concerned. This silly little man, whose current wife has been known to bare far more than is realistically acceptable in public, is going full steam ahead with what has become widely known as the 'burqa ban now set to become law in France on April 11th although one could be forgiven for presuming that the date should read 'April 1st instead. This controversial, extremely discriminatory law bans the wearing of niqab in any public place in the country and means that veiled women will even have to uncover their faces when transiting through any airport on French soil, which is really pushing the issue over the line of personal human rights. From the coming 11th, niqab wearing French nationals will be allocated a special, read 'reduced, class of citizenship, which is supposed to remind them that the country believes 100 percent in equal rights for its male and female nationals, yet quite obviously does nothing of the sort. Niqab wearing women, if they dare to \\venture out onto the street to go shopping, pick up or drop their children from school, seek the services of a doctor or dentist or even if they wish to drop in at their local library or see a movie with friends are liable, after this date, to face arrest, fines and even imprisonment for dressing as they see fit whilst, at the other end of the spectrum, three quarters naked females will still be allowed to prance around supposedly unmolested in the name of freedom and equality for all no matter who finds their lack of decent clothing offensive. Baring all may be an accepted norm for the French, but surely this should not include forcing a few hundred niqab wearing Muslim women to bare their faces to the world, if their personal preference is otherwise. The Muslim population of France is estimated to be over five million, the majority of these increasingly stigmatised nationals having ancestral roots in predominantly Islamic North African countries such as Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco which were, in some cases still are, colonised and rapaciously exploited by the French who did not, as far as it can be ascertained, make the slightest effort towards cultural adaptation in any way let alone in the issue of dress whilst busily milking these unfortunate countries for everything they could get. Now, however, having, as a direct result of international and national laws, had no option but to confer citizenship to some inhabitants of their former colonies, the French have given themselves the role of cultural enforcer over legal immigrants in search of an improved standard of living plus, and this is the rub, life in the land of equality where, as always and in every single country on the planet, some are more equal than others with, in this distasteful case, Christianity being viewed, by the French or at least by their narrow-minded, bigoted President and his cronies, as being superior to Islam. Surely, in these days of the much touted 'global village, the French, who are so undeservedly proud of their underdone cuisine, have turned up the heat of discrimination to burning point, and thus deserve to barbecue their very own sticky fingers. Defining exactly what constitutes a 'public place must have presented a fairly complex conundrum for the parliamentary legal eagles of the French judiciary, as the definition of a public place includes everywhere that members of the public may, at some point, be present and this, quite obviously, does include places of worship which, thankfully, have finally been excluded from the ban as have passengers in private cars and the interior of a niqab wearers own home although how such a woman is supposed to walk from her own front door to get into a private car parked on a public street is yet to be explained. Referring to this new law as the 'burqa ban when, as informed people know perfectly well that there is a definite difference between what constitutes a burqa and niqab, did not go down well in all French quarters, as it highlights the prejudice it so obviously is therefore, in trying to balance the scales a little French Prime Minister Francois Fillon decided, in his questionable wisdom, to rename it the bill against 'covering ones face in public places, which immediately landed him in hot water as such a bill automatically includes law abiding motorcycle riders wearing full-faced helmets, fencing masks, the masks worn by some ordinary cyclists, those worn by baseball players and even, lets 'face it, publicly donned gauze masks intended to protect the wearers against things such as traffic pollution, transferable diseases, like coughs and colds, and also to safeguard those with pollen allergies et al. The department 'responsible has, keeping French culture in mind, quickly drawn up a list of permissible exemptions, including mask wearing participants of parades and other celebrations, but has not specified whether or not there is a legal punishment for joining in these frivolities dressed in niqab. Poking fun at the imposition of the 'burqa ban does not, unfortunately, make it go away so one can only hope that, if and when, niqab wearing French Muslim women lodge an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights that they win a landslide victory although this did not happen when the French imposed a headscarf ban back in 2004. The writer is a Murree-based freelance columnist.