This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
The French haven’t had such a to-do about fabric since the advent of the miniskirt.
But the current controversy gripping France – whether or not to ban the burqa worn by some conservative Muslim women – has rien to do with couture and everything to do with the tricky dilemma of balancing religious rights in a secular society.
The issue has created interesting common ground between the right and left. Some on the right see the burqa as a gauche symbol of a brand of radical Islam whose followers set themselves apart from the wider French society and its values. And some on the left see the burqa, and the slightly less concealing niqab (the woman’s eyes are not covered), as a sign of degradation and inégalité.