When veiled women are asked their reasons for donning the burqa they often describe it as liberating, simply because they don’t have men leering at them, sizing them up, making judgments.
We can easily see a burqa-clad lady as unfree; she can look at western women, who put so much time, effort and money into looking attractive for men as also being unfree.
The issue of coercion is universal. While we might like to see “the other” dictating to “their” women how to dress, the truth is that there are many women in Europe who have been told what to wear by their partners, sometimes backed up with violence. Stopping that is not an issue about the burqa. We need to stop seeing Muslims as “them” from “over there,” but as what they are: fellow humans and citizens of Europe. There is also the chance that, if we treat our neighbors with different faiths in this way, they might be more inclined toward being more fully engaged with us. In this way, we all benefit, but until that happens, the burqa debate is the wrong issue, too narrow, and one that can only further divide us. That is how we can all lose.