Many news and magazine websites have reported on an interesting and very controversial topic recently. The banning of the Burkini in many French cities has been thrown into the global spot light and has caused a lot of opinions to surface not only from French citizens, but also from various countries and citizens across the world. Before we can get into discussions regarding the ban of the Burkini, let’s discuss what a Burkini actually is and what it means to Muslim women.
A Burkini is a type of swimwear, many think resembling a wet suit for surfers, that Muslim women wear that cover all parts of the body, such as arms, legs, and hair. The only exceptions, or parts, that are not covered are the face, hands, and feet. For many Muslim women, the Burkini was made to allow them to participate more in Western culture. It was meant for Muslim women to be able to go to the beach with their children or to partake in swimming if they so wished to do.
For many decades, Muslim women have worn a Hijab or Burka, to conceal themselves in a modest, private way. It is in no way to be secretive or dishonest with anyone, but in this post 9/11, modern day society, this is how most people perceive Muslims as a whole. Before 9/11, many people saw the burqa as a “symbol of the enslavement of women”, but now it is seen as a “symbol of ties to terrorists or terroristic activities.”
After the photo of a woman on a beach in France, surrounded by three police officers, was forced to remove her Burkini was released, protesters across the country and the world rallied together to support Muslim women by taking to the beaches clad in all forms of swimwear, holding signs stating “wear what you want.” The photo even sparked a trending hashtag, #WTFFRANCE, that spread like wild fire across the globe on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
One of the reasons France has decided to outlaw something so trivial is because of the recent Bastille Day terrorist attack. The July 14 attack was carried out by a man named Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel. Bouhlel drove a truck into the crowds partaking in the Bastille Day activities, while they were waiting for the fireworks display, in Nice, during the national holiday. The incident ended up killing 85 people and injuring many others. Due to this horrendous attack and many others recently experienced in France at the hands of the terrorist group, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), French officials and residents are now fearing for their safety. Some say these attacks are fueled by and are fueling prejudice and intolerance towards Muslims as a whole. To the French, all Muslims have been put in the same category of terrorists or violent Islamic extremists. French officials have enacted laws against Muslims, most recently the ban of the Burkini, which some say violates Muslim women’s’ rights to practice modesty and to express themselves and their religion. Some French residents see the ban as an infringement on religious freedoms. Others say the overt style of Islamic dress is inconsistent with France’s rigorously enforced secularism. Officials have said the ban on the Burkini was in response to the growing terror concerns throughout the country.
Even though there is no clear end in sight regarding this issue, the highest courts in France have overturned or suspended the ban on the Burkini, but many French mayors in the 30 plus cities, have continued to enforce the ban and have enlisted the help of the cities’ officers to uphold this ban by scouring the beaches of France and ticketing anyone “caught” wearing a Burkini. The Muslim women living in France have taken notice of this, but continue to wear their hijab as a way of showing their solidarity to their culture and religion.