The latest wave of sanctions against burqa in France and Belgium have sparked fierce debate these days. Many other European countries have banned or are trying to introduce laws banning burqa including Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Australia. They are rejecting observance of hijab in their societies by rendering it contrary to their cultural values and secularism. Also, they consider it against human rights of women. The Belgian and French Parliaments have actually gone ahead and approved a ban on the burqa or veil that entirely or partly conceals a womans face and body. In case of disobedience of this law, a woman could be fined or sent to jail or her citizenship may be revoked and penalties may be imposed on the man enforcing her to do so. The view of the Europeans, of course, is that the burqa is a mobile prison and an act of discrimination against women, an instrument of oppression. But their policy of subjugation of Muslim women, a minority in their countries, is also an act of discrimination and an instrument of oppression too. Muslim women feel the safest under umbrella of Islam and Hijab for them is a symbol of piety as welljust as being cloistered and to be in a nuns habit is one for the Catholic women. It allows a woman to move independently for making a living with out having to worry about deflecting unseemly advances from men. Hijab or burqa is not a hurdle in success but helps in it. It does not subordinate a woman but actually makes her valuable and equal to man. This ban has got more to do with prejudice than to the spirit of protecting women rights. This ban has taken away the freedom to choose from women on how they wish to dress. -LUBNA KHALIL, Lahore, May 15.