An activist for moderate Islam called for Muslim communities to support France's ban on the veil and attacked the "rote ritualism" of the face covering in an op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor. According to Dr. Qanta Ahmed, the veil has become a political symbol of division and ignorance, one which Western society is right to prohibit.
"Limiting face-veils to a private practice within the home can yield a more cohesive society, if only Western authorities are courageous enough to carry this through," Ahmed wrote. "Authorities will succeed only if they are supported by educated Muslims intimate with the nuances of veiling beyond a literal construction."
For Ahmed, the veil does not symbolize the modesty and chastity that she believes underlies both male and female roles in Islam. Rather, it is a political symbol that "obscures the faith's complexity and pluralism into a single, faceless monolith." Yet, because of its popularity amongst those reviving traditional Islam in post 9/11 America, it is often taken as a symbol of devotion among Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Ahmed disputes the idea that Muslim women should turn Islam's philosophy of modesty into a simple piece of cloth. She sees this and other manifestations of separateness as the desire of "Islamist Muslims [to] push the limits of societal balance beyond the pale." For her, the Islamists' "actions, and not the state's, ultimately limit the progress and acceptance of all Muslims, whatever the extent of our external symbols of Islam."
Ahmed has authored several columns on the subject of Islamism and the need of Western society to take strong action. She also is the author of In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom, an account of her experiences under Saudi Arabia's repressive religious law.