In the UK, the decision of a judge to preclude a Muslim woman from wearing the niqab while giving evidence in court has sparked a wider debate about the face veil.
Those on the left and the right have formed an uneasy alliance in seeking its banishment from public places, with the former worrying that any proliferation will necessarily erode women's rights and the latter citing its existence as a potent symbol of the failure of multi-culturalism.
There is much to dislike about the niqab: the cloaking of women so they are disappeared from society; the tangible barrier it creates between women and those they interact with; and the implication that women who don't wear the niqab are inviting sexual assault from "kafir" men who are unable to control themselves at the sight of a woman's bare face.
Its existence stems from a misogynistic interpretation of the Koran, in which women are consigned to the role of foul temptress while men are derided as rapacious automatons.
Its purpose is the subjugation of women and the stripping away of their autonomy. It implies that the female body is inherently dangerous or dirty – a corrupting force capable of the subversion of society unless it is shrouded.
In this analysis, women's honour is a function of their invisibility. Predictably, no such trade-off exists for men.
Its proponents defend the niqab as empowering, freeing them from society's base objectification of women, but in the countries where it is most commonly worn, women are treated like glorified chattel. They are not empowered. They are oppressed.
However, in all of the fulmination about the evils of patriarchal prescriptions when it comes to Muslim women's clothing, there is a danger that we in the West will overlook our own socially imposed and strictly observed dictums.
It was revealed last week that US broadcaster Julie Chen had undergone plastic surgery when, as a young reporter, she was told her "Asian eyes" were an impediment to progressing her career.
Her boss said her eyes made her look disinterested and bored, and if she had double-eyelid surgery to create a Western appearance, she would go straight to the top. It worked. Her career took off.
Chen wasn't told to hide her face behind a niqab, but she was told she needed to materially change her appearance and mask her identity behind a veneer of cultural congruity to fit in.
So, while Muslim women disguise their faces with a niqab, others are forced to resort to cosmetic surgery – a metaphorical veil – to achieve the same effect.
Some may say the racism experienced by Chen is a relic of a bygone era, but supermodel Naomi Campbell this week launched a campaign to highlight the lack of Asian and black models on the catwalks.
At last week's New York Fashion Week, only 6pc of models were black and 9pc Asian. Campbell said it was easier for non-white models to break into the industry 25 years ago.
This regression is exemplified by a recent 'Dutch Vogue' photo shoot that featured a white model made-up to look like Grace Jones – a bizarre homage to the singer and actress, reminiscent of the racist caricatures of old.
Elsewhere, in 2008, L'Oreal was forced to deny claims that it had "whitened" Beyonce's skin in an ad campaign after the singer appeared with pale skin and blonde hair in promotional photos. The allegation caused controversy because "bleaching" – the use of skin creams, often with toxic ingredients, to lighten dark skin – is a huge industry, common in colonial countries where white skin is associated with wealth and power.
HENRY Ford famously said of his Model T: "You can have any colour you want as long as it's black." Similarly, our society celebrates diversity – as long as it's white.
It's right to condemn the niqab as a jarring representation of the annexation of women, but our own society is not immune to less overt manifestations of misogyny.
It has been estimated that only 20,000 British Muslim women wear the niqab. Introducing a law to target such a tiny demographic could prove self-defeating and encourage others to don the veil in defiance.
The solution is not state bans, but education, integration and an honest examination of the homogeneous representation of women in popular culture.
Clothes are an expression of self and, ultimately, a woman's appearance is her choice. But it must be a real choice. Not a Hobbesian choice between varying degrees of latent misogyny.