First, he spent a whole lot of campaign money on making himself pretty with expensive makeup - perhaps one of the key reasons he feels people shouldn't hide their faces.
Then, he brought his girlfriend along on a state visit to
And then - oh, the Muslim-hating Crusader! - he called for a ban on the burqa, and said it went against the rights of women by ''imprisoning them''. What's more, he actually got it enacted.
By saying veils ''do not pose a problem in a religious sense, but threaten the dignity of women'', Sarkozy has the unique distinction of leaving both right-wingers and left-wingers in a muddle.
All those who thought he was being politically correct, and hiding the real reason behind the ban on the veil in public places - that a terrorist may be carrying a bunch of explosives under it - had to admit he was more of a feminist than an Islamophobe when he instituted a fine of 150 euros or lessons in French citizenship for women who defied the ban, and of 30,000 euros and a year's imprisonment for anyone who forced a woman to wear the chador, niqab or burqa (to be doubled if the victim is a minor).
Now, no one can deny the burqa has its uses - it helped Priyanka Chopra get to an event on time, by boarding a suburban train without being mobbed by her fans, and it helped Himesh Reshammiya escape the wrath of music-lovers.
Among other things, it could be a useful mask for people who intend to bomb targets, whatever their religion or causes may be - and France has some great architecture - and it helps men control their carnal desires, if one takes the hard-line clerics at their word.
But then, what does it do for the women? Does it really imprison them, or does it bring them closer to their faith, to God, and make them feel protected?
My first encounter with prejudice against the burqa occurred in
''Look at that man! How can he force them to wear those when they're buying such lovely clothes?'' she asked.
''Maybe they're not being forced,'' I pointed out.
''Who would voluntarily wear those?'' she demanded, with a shudder, ''and if they like it, why are they buying from Selfridge's instead of Tesco's?''
I found that the question was unanswerable, after I did a documentary on women who chose to wear the hijab. A well-spoken, educated woman who had grown up in
Another woman told me she felt more spiritually aware when she was wearing the veil; it made her less vain about her looks. To others, it was an expression of their religion, as simple as wearing a cross or a caste mark.
Does the ban in
One point that most angry protesters seem to forget is that
Besides, those who assume that every woman wearing the veil does so out of choice are as wrong as those who assume every woman wearing the veil is forced to. One of my interviewees, a woman who had discarded the veil in her twenties, told me she resents her relatives even now, for making her feel she was ''wanton and unclean'' for going without the hijab.
The question that arises next is, does
The day Saudi Arabia allows women to walk the streets sans burqas, the day Iran admits its female citizens have a right to do away with the headscarf, the day India allows people to kiss in public, and the day any country declares that its citizens are free to do anything they wish to out in the open, one may make a case that France's ban is unconstitutional.
But there isn't a single country in the world that doesn't place restrictions on behaviour on the streets - and I'm not talking about actions that affect other people or expose them to health risks, such as smoking. Whether we personally disagree with these rules or subscribe to them, we cannot deny that the country has a right to put them into effect.
I do believe every individual has a right to practise his or her religion, and a right to freedom of expression - as long as it doesn't go against the country's laws. And when your beliefs are in conflict with the laws of the land, you still have a choice - to leave.
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The author is a writer based in Chennai. She blogs at