Angela Merkel has this week called for a ban of the full-face veil (burqa) “wherever legally possible”. While many of us in the UK may be uncomfortable with the cultural assumptions behind the wearing of the burqa, it’s important for us to remember that, as liberals, we should enshrine wherever possible the right to decide how you live your life and practice your faith, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. A ban of the burqa is an illiberal assault on religious and cultural freedoms.
Unfortunately, there is another side to this issue – there is great concern, both from moderate muslims in the UK, and from wider observers, that some number of women are forced to wear the burqa or otherwise endure cultural or religious burdens that they do not want. Stripping away the rights of another, and forcing them to act as you will with threats of violence, exclusion, monetary penalties and more is abuse, and we need to tackle that with all seriousness.