Sorry for the late response.
Thank you very much. It means a lot to me when people acknowledge my views as at least rational thoughts. You have a very good point, and thanks for asking my opinion. The name "burqa" may mean "barrier", but this is only to the extent that the woman's physical features below it cannot be perceived. It is actually unislamic to be socially inactive - our beloved Prophet (p.b.u.h.) looked after his neighbours, even if they were not Muslim, in their times of need. Every Muslim should emulate the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) to the best of his/her ability. Not too long ago, I heard of a sister who wore the like of a burqa (niqab included - i.e. only her eyes were uncovered) and taught at a mainstream school - it didn't prevent her from taking part in society. And it shouldn't.
Of course she can accept the culture, because it stands for many morally just principles, e.g. brotherhood, but it mustn't be forced upon her in forms she cannot relate to, or views to be morally wrong. Here in Britain, we are proud to have our own multicultural society, to which each can add (curry is now considered a thoroughly British dish), but we retain the traditionally British values of modesty and politeness because they are what make us proud to be part of such an inclusive society. However, beer-sodden football chanting can not be considered an "initiation" into British culture. I mean, not exactly all Britons do it anyway. I'm not so sure that North America is quite the same... I don't know. Would you tell me your views? It seems to me that there is much more nationalism in the U.S. than in Britain (until the World Cup comes around, that is), and this discourages people from adding to its culture, because they feel that if they don't conform, they don't fit in.
Also, regarding wearing a headscarf and modest clothing, well that's just fine. This is all Allah asks of us in the Qur'an. No specification of shape or colour is given - only that clothes must not be tight or transparent. People choose to wear burqas, or abayas, mink coats, or whatever. If you ask me, I don't really mind what material they use, or how they sew it. Does it really bother people that much? I realise people have some kind of burqa-phobia, but seriously... it's not that hard to get over. Actually talking to a person wearing it would show you that there are real people under there... their outfits aren't that different to hoody-wearers anyway.
Don't get us wrong, though. We choose to cover up, but I am one of the only ones in my school, let alone my group of friends, who wears a headscarf. I don't impose anything on them. As the Qur'an says, "There is no compulsion in religion". Forcing one to adopt your values is futile - it leads to resentment. Neither do I look down on them. It's not down to me to think better of myself than I do of them - they're good people, and that's why I value them as friends. They've done a lot for me, and the fact that they choose to wear things that I wouldn't cannot be something I discriminate by. My only job with regard to them is to convey how very unoppressed and content I am as a person.
I just don't get Jacques Chirac, though. France is built on Fraternity, Liberty, and Equality, yet liberty is denied to schoolchildren who have the human right to practice their religious beliefs. This in turn destroys any chance of equality in schools, as some can wear what they want, and others must not go any further than a bandana. And surely this defeats fraternity, separating the religious from the others, as the former feel victimised and distanced from society. I mean, sure, be secular, it's your country - but don't impose atheism on your people.
Thanks. However, I have to disagree. I very much enjoy the opportunity to put my own point across - even if prompted by disagreeable arguments. If there wasn't discussion, there would be largely ignorance.
And don't pretend that that's not dangerous. No matter how unworthy you may consider them to be of your enlightenment, you and they both deserve to put your opinions across... or neither will ever learn. But I do draw the line at obscenities.
"After all, how is it any less oppressive or authoritarian to force a women to remove her headscarf than it is to foce her to wear it?" Exactly. Ditto. Totally what I think.