It would be easy to dismiss the French ban on the face veil as a similarly petty and unhelpful expression of anti-Islamic sentiment as last year's Swiss ban on mosque minarets. And there can be little doubt that such anti-Islamic feeling is behind much of the popular support for the move. However, in both cases there is a sense that the bans were not just about Islamophobia but also about attempting to preserve national character. France has had a long history of aggressive measures to protect against, not Islam, but American cultural polution. Should this ban be seen as anything different? It probably should because rather than attempting to stop a foreign cultual import entering the country to its detriment this ban targets those already in the country who should have a legitimate right to freedom of religious expression.
As a positive alternative; rather than stop women wearing the veil, a perfectly sensible move given the way some men look at women in public, why not legislate that the men who are caught leering have to wear blinkers?