Ilya Somin revisits the subject after its constitutionality was upheld by a French court:
European Muslims are, on average, less well integrated into the economies and societies of their countries than American ones are. Nonetheless, it is difficult to believe that European Muslim women’s full participation in society is somehow precluded by wearing veils. The French Constitutional Council offers no evidence whatsoever to the contrary.
I can understand the idea that covering one’s face poses a danger to public safety in some instances (e.g. where security personnel need to carefully screen anyone who enters a particularly sensitive area). But a blanket ban on all wearing of veils in public seems manifestly disproportionate to any such legitimate security concerns. Here, too, the Council doesn’t give any evidence or analysis to justify the conclusion that a blanket ban on public veiling really is necessary.
Finally, while I agree that radical Islamism is a serious danger, banning veils is a poor way to combat it. Forbidding the wearing of veils in public won’t persuade any Muslims to reject radical Islamist ideas. What you wear on top of your head doesn’t determine what you believe inside it. The ban might, on the other hand, increase the attraction of radical Islamism to at least some wavering Muslims who are likely to be embittered as a result.
I agree. But I'm a fierce defender of religious liberty. The French Republic: not so much. It's also worth recalling that just as the Park51 controversy had a Catholic antecedent, so does the issue about public veiling. In Karen Armstrong's words:
In Victorian Britain, nuns believed that until they could appear in public fully veiled, Catholics would never be accepted in this country. But Britain got over its visceral dread of popery. In the late 1960s, shortly before I left my order, we decided to give up the full habit. This decision expressed, among other things, our new confidence, but had it been forced upon us, our deeply ingrained fears of persecution would have revived.