France’s burqa ban goes into effect

Today France has taken a controversial move and instated a burqa ban, aimed at the traditional religious covering worn by conservative Muslim women. The ban will potentially affect up to 2,000 women who wear a full-face veil in public, though it is unclear how the enforcement will work as police cannot remove the veil. Women who refuse to lift the burqa or niqab may be taken to a police station for an identity check, threatened with a 150 euro fine, or forced to attend “re-education” classes. Men who force women to wear the veil will face a 30,000 euro fine and up to a year in jail. So far only a few women have been arrested for protesting the ban near Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral.

Jacques Myard, a Parliament member and supporter of the ban said “The face is a dignity of a person. The face is your passport. So when you refuse me to see you, I am a victim.” France has the highest Muslim population in Europe, estimated between four and six million, though only a few thousand women wear the full-face veil. Belgium has passed a similar law but hasn’t enforced it, and the Netherlands is considering a ban as well.

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America’s Next Top Model, Afghani-style

Imagine models dressed prudishly in jackets and long pants strutting their stuff on a low-budget TV would hardly seem the stuff of controversy to most of us, but in the Middle East, it has the potential to raise a few eyebrows. It’s true — a version of America’s Top Model has now hit the most unlikely of places: Afghanistan. Of all the bits of American culture to adopt, they just had to pick that one. Yep, we’re so proud.

So I’m wondering — does this version of the hit show include the characteristic catfights? The verbal backlash from Tyra? No, they don’t need criticism from each other or the judges — technically, the show directly violates the teachings of Islam. But in forward-thinking Mazar-i-Sharif, few objected to the program — particularly the young folks.

Still, it’s a step ahead for this zealously conservative country, and I guess on some level it’s nice that girls in Afghanistan are being recognized for their beauty — after all, Americans didn’t write the book on beauty.