I never thought I'd be giving a Frenchman our vaunted Imperialist of the Week award. After all, France is the land of make believe, not hardcore imperialism, subjugation of others to French will, or even considerable Gaulish jingoism. No one ever cried singing "La Marseillaise" except in Casablanca, and that was an American production.
So it was a shock when the polling numbers came up and Nicolas Sarkozy won handily with the submission of a bill banning the wearing of face veils in public places. Talk about flying a counter-cultural flag. France has the largest number of Muslim inhabitants in western Europe, totaling between 5 and 8 million. Sarkozy maintains the garb oppresses women and is "not welcome" in France.
Ignoring experts who say the bill stands on shaky legal ground, Sarkozy may be biting back at recent hits on his own personal capital, including allegations that he and his wife Carla Bruni engaged in mutual infidelity. Not that an affair of state is unprecedented--in France it's practically a national pastime.
But Sarkozy's stance is surprising, considering the rapid growth of Islam in France, especially in the urban ghettos which foment Muslim youth street violence. Even in the face of warnings from the Conseil d'Etat, a watchdog on state legal actions, that a burka ban was "unworkable and probably unconstitutional", Sarkozy clearly isn't afraid to stigmatize a majority of Muslim orthodoxy to cater to the supermajority of secularists and libertarian oglers who just want women to enjoy the same freedoms as men.
Or maybe they just want those restrictive clothing rules to be loosened up a bit. Nothing like a little sex to ease a terrorist's zeal.
Whatever the motivation, Cultural Imperialist applauds Sarkozy for taking the lead on what is a universal right: the continued and facilitated baring of women's skin, the promotion of equality, and the crackdown on gender snubs in religious extremists. Whether the aim is the diminishing of oppression or the increase in Middle Eastern feminine visibility, we can take a cue from this French hero's fight. Banning the veil may not work in practice, but Sarkozy is wielding the burka ban as a political and social flag of liberty, equality, and sorority, and it appears he's unlikely to surrender the issue any time soon.