The French ideas of “liberty, equality, fraternity” were challenged from within when the French government drifted towards Islamophobia in recent years. The most vivid picture of France turning Islamophobic state was the government decision to bar women from wearing full-face Islamic veil. The ban on face veils by the French government is a reflection of cultural imperialism, to put it mildly. And the United Nations Human Rights Committee, too, in its finding has found that the French government ban on full-face veils, implemented in 2010, is a violation of human rights.

The then President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy echoing Napoleon wanted to liberate Muslim women as the veil was degrading women. However, Sarkozy and those who succeeded him didn’t realise or did not want to recognise “deliberately” that the legislation was merely an oppressive measure. It had nothing to do with security as no veiled woman has carried out a single terrorist attack on French soil.

The French hypocrisy on multiculturalism was exposed with the ban as the draft on the ban read that it was necessary to ensure the goal of “living together.” An environment where all wear uniform dresses cannot guarantee multiculturalism. Nor can it ensure the goal of living together. It was an attempt to deepen the “us versus them” divide further.

The French legislation, mimicked by some five other nations, is nothing but an attempt to force women out of burqa rather than creating an environment in which a woman can choose what she wishes to do. France’s actions on burqa did not amount to liberating women from degradation; for many, the ban on burqa was not short of unclothing women who chose to wear burqas. While the French authorities are yet to take action in the light of the committee’s conclusion, Arundhati Roy hits the bull’s eye when she says that coercing a woman out of a burqa is as bad as coercing her into one.