In its fifth paragraph the Times leader raises practical difficulties arising from the wearing of the burka: you can't properly drive a car or practise medicine; it impairs trust. Well, if these claims are true, then driving a car and practising medicine can be made conditional on not wearing a burka. And if someone behaves towards you or me in a way that impairs trust, we can make it plain what we think of their doing so by telling them.
The conclusion of the whole piece is the following:
An absolute ban on the burka is unnecessary and unenforceable. But civic education and religious debate... are the best way to consign to the dark ages this symbol of darkness.
Exactly so - except that non-religious debate is just as pertinent. The seeming reservations that were expressed here towards Mill's principles don't really come to anything when all is said and done.
Personally I find the sight of covered women offensive, and if I had children at school would object publicly to their being taught by a covered woman; I would also refuse to have medical treatment, or otherwise deal in the public services, with a covered woman. On the grounds that personal communication is necessary in these roles, and for that you need to see the person's face. If a woman feels the need to be covered she should stay out of public life. However whether I am personally offended or not is neither here nor there. Causing offence is often a good thing, and is never a reason for not doing something. So Sarkozy (whom I admire as a politician) is wrong about this, as France was wrong to ban the hijab in schools. Though it has to be said that here in Strasbourg I have seen many women and girls with the hijab or something like it, but never a burka-covered woman. I saw such women often in south London when I lived there, they may have been Somali (though how could you tell without seeing their faces) and often their male relatives, if accompanying them, were wearing crotch-hugging trousers and revealing chest hair with accompanying nestling medallions. Offensive on several counts.