Many people around the world have heard the fierce debate about the burkini, others aren’t quite sure what it is. In an article from The World Post, the burkini is described as “a swimsuit that covers everything except the hands, feet, and face.” As we talked about in a discussion in class, they are marketed towards Muslim women so they are able to swim in public while still abiding by the strict modesty standards. The author also goes onto say that it is not much different than a scuba suit used by divers or long distance swimmers. The debate heard around the world is whether this swimsuit should be banned from public beaches or not. There are arguments on both sides, however, the arguments against the ban are much greater.
Several towns along the French Riviera banned the burkini following the deadly Bastille Day attacks in Greece. Citizens were gathered to watch fireworks in July 2016 when a large truck plowed through them, killing at least 84 people and injuring others. Authorities contended that the body-covering swimwear isn’t in accordance with France’s secular views which they were founded on.
In France, the opinions are divided among two sides: those who see the laws as an infringement of religious freedom, and the individuals who see the Islamic dress as conflicting with their thoroughly implemented secularism. Human rights activists argue that the bans are unlawful and efforts to prohibit this swimwear are Islamophobic. In an article from BBC, the director of human rights in Europe said the ruling to overturn the ban had “drawn a line in the sand.” The French officials should now drop the act that these measures do anything to secure the privileges of women. The director also went on to say that the bans promote public humiliation of the women wearing the burkinis, not increase public safety.
France’s highest court overturned the ban and ruled that the mayors of the towns do not have the right to ban burkinis. However, they are choosing to ignore this and enforce the bans anyway. An article from CNN presents views from mayors across the French Riviera that believe this ban is essential. One mayor telling CNN “if you don’t want to live the way we do, don’t come.” Another mayor comparing the burkini to another country saying, “go in Saudi Arabia and be naked and see what will happen to you.” This is the only news source I read that is completely for the ban.
Many news sources that we look at daily such as ABC News, The New York Times, and BBC news see this ban as unnecessary. An article from ABC News talks about the suspension of the burkini ban. The State Council in France ruled that the measure was a “serious and clearly illegal violation of fundamental freedoms.” The court said that the only way they could restrict individuals freedoms is if they were to represent a “proven risk” to the public. The judges ruled that there was no such risk in the case. The United Nations, an organization who’s main goal is to promote international co-operation, praised the suspension saying that there is a need for people’s dignity to be respected.
A news article from The New York Times shows us how the ban is seen across the world – widely different reactions. The author explains that in Britain and the United States, modest outfits are viewed as a multicultural model of integrating minorities. Similarly, in China, face-covering swimwear as been popular for people fearing wrinkles, so they don’t see what the commotion is about. The designer of the burkini spoke to the people in The New York Times and told them, “the burkini swimsuit is freedom and happiness and lifestyle changes – you can’t take that away from a Muslim, or any other women, that chooses to wear it.” Due to the hot sun on the beach or in a sporting event outside, many women see the burkini simply as protection from the sun. This article is explaining that not all women wearing burkinis or similar swimwear are Muslims, so we cannot make generalizations.
What’s interesting is that the “burkini bans” do not actually mention the burkini in them. The law simply says that beachwear “must be respectful of good public manners and the principle of secularism.” Police enacted this law by forcing women to take off an item of clothing. This intensified the controversy and made people across the world angry. In our world today, every crowd of people is a potential terrorist target and bans like these do not necessarily lead to public safety.
With all this being said, BBC took a look at what the Muslim women had to say about this ban. For example, Aysha Ziauddin, a resident from the outskirts of France, says “this is just an Islamophobic attack on Muslim women in Cannes.” Another person expressed, “…what a woman chooses to wear on a public beach is not going to make the slightest bit of difference, and just hands ammunition to those who want to recruit to their twisted ideology.” BBC News is presenting the thoughts of these women to back them in their argument against the ban and prove that it is an infringement of their rights.
In an article from NPR, a source that delivers top world and breaking news, the author states, “The ban is sexist, Islamophobic and, above all, extreme. ‘France’s way of battling this extremism is with an extremist act.'” It seems as if the ban was put in place to maintain control and assimilate the Muslim population. This would take away their values and traditions. The hypocritical acts enforced by the French government are getting them no where because they are trying to combat extremism with extremism.
Even though the highest courts in France already overturned the ban, the debate is no where near over. As discussed earlier, there are many mayors in France that insist on keeping the ban in their towns, and others that continue to fight back. With the religion of Islam spreading more each year, the women will continue to express their modesty.
Alison Baitz. ” The Burkini: A Closer Look at the Swimwear that’s Making Headlines.” NPR. August 26, 2016. (http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/08/26/491477033/frances-highest-court-suspends-burkini-ban-in-one-town)
Aurelein Breeden and Lilia Balise. “Court Overturns ‘Burkini’ Ban in French Town.” The New York Times. August 26, 2016. (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/27/world/europe/france-burkini-ban.html)
Dan Bilefsky. “France’s Burkini Debate Reverberates Around the World.” The New York Times. August 31, 2016. (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/01/world/europe/burkini-france-us-germany-africa.html)
Daniel Avis. “Cannes ‘burkini’ ban: What do muslim women think?” BBC News. August 13 2016. (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37062354)
Joseph Micallef. “Is France Right to Ban the Burkini?” The World Post. September 12, 2016. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-v-micallef/is-france-right-to-ban-th_b_11845732.html)
Kelsey Harkness. “What’s behind the French burkini ban” The Daily Signal. September 01, 2016. (http://dailysignal.com/2016/09/01/whats-behind-the-french-burkini-ban/)
Kim Hielmgaard. “5 things to know about French burkini bans” USA Today. August 25, 2016. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/08/25/europe-burkini-controversy-france/89325642/)
Lizzie Dearden. “Burkini Ban: Why is France arresting Muslim women for wearing full-body swimwear and why are people so angry?” Independent. August 24, 2016. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/burkini-ban-why-is-france-arresting-muslim-women-for-wearing-full-body-swimwear-and-why-are-people-a7207971.html)
No author listed. “Top French court suspends ‘illegal’ burkini ban as ‘serious’ violation of freedoms.” ABC News. August 27, 2016. (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-26/top-french-court-makes-initial-ruling-to-suspend-burkini-ban/7790718)
Reuters. “France burkini : Highest court suspends ban” BBC News. August 26, 2016. (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37198479)
Sheena McKenzie and Antonia Mortensen. “French mayor on burkini ban: They must accept our way of life.” CNN. August 30, 2016. (http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/30/europe/french-mayor-cogolin-burkini-ban/)