This week, French President Nicholas Sarkozy used a historic state-of-the-nation address to proclaim that the burqua, or face-covering, was a symbol of women’s subservience that was “not welcome in France”.

Sarkozy backed calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the issue, following suggestions from a government spokesman that the face-veil could be banned in public places -- which amounts to an outright ban, since even the Taliban saw no need for women to veil in private spaces.