This week a photo of French police enforcing the burkini ban by demanding a woman remove her clothing circulated the worldwide web and caused a lot of conversation over the ridiculousness and insulting imposition that had been placed across 30 French towns. Thankfully, France's highest administrative court ruled that mayors do not have the right to ban burkinis and suspended the ban.
When the idea of this burkini ban first arised, I thought how ludicrious. The fear boiling over in the French people (and a lot of people around the world) is not unfounded, but a anti-Muslim attitude is. Is a burkini ban really the way forward? Is telling a woman what she can and cannot wear whilst enjoying the sun and the waves going to stop terrorism? Of course, it's not about women, it's about religion right? Well in this case, the two are intertwined. I couldn't come close to understanding how they could not see the greater harm they were causing. How could they not see the bigger picture of their actions?
Some of these French towns saw their actions as championing secularity. It's about forcing Muslims to better integrate into French culture. Yet, the burkini was invented to help Muslims integrate, because it allowed them to go swimming and to the beach with their peers and friends. What the ban does is quite the opposite--it would alienate Muslims and that is dangerous. It is dangerous when you alienate any group of people. So much for liberte, egalite, and fraternite.
If I were to go to a French beach should I be banned from wearing my pendants of Mary and Jesus and my own saint, Santa Giustina? In a French public school, yes, this would not be allowed, but a public beach where I'm just looking for a good time and some Vitamin D? What if I wore a bikini that says "I LOVE JESUS"? Or what about the nuns???? Are they going to ask a nun to strip herself of her dress and veil??? Look at this first rule I found noted in a BBC article.
The first rule noted here says "...banned to any person wearing improper clothes that are not respectful of good morals and secularism." Who is to judge what is improper clothes and not respectful of good morals? 50 years ago, women's bikinis used to be measured for being "improperly" short. You know what's not respectful of good morals? Talking back to your parents, cheating, judging someone's looks, talking behind someone's back. You know what else is not respectful of good morals? This burkini ban. Maybe we should force everyone to be nude at the beach, no sacks no snacks, then we can really ensure everyone's safety.
As I went on and on enraged by this ordeal, I read various articles regarding the matter--most denouncing the ban and many showing the arguments in support of it. It's sexist, it's discriminatory, and it promotes Islamaphobia. One woman who supports the ban made an interesting point that made me stop to think. She said she was in support of the ban, because it relieved women who if given the choice would choose not to wear the burkini, and instead of facing the pressures of their families and cultural pressures, could blame it on the ban. Perhaps there are women who would choose not to wear a burkini, or a hijab, or other custom wear, but for being conditioned or pressured to wear them. That's the thing though isn't it? It should be a choice. Not matter what side of the sword you're on, it should be a choice. I have Muslim friends who wear hijabs and Muslim friends who don't wear hijabs, but it's their choice.
In fact, I just recently went to the beach with a Muslim friend and she chooses not to wear a hijab. However, she still believes in and is most comfortable in what she feels is modest clothing. She wore some lose yoga pants and a t-shirt, and we had a blast.
The bottom line is this ban went too far. It's on the same spectrum of wrong as shaming a woman for not sticking to traditional values and dress.
The more we play with fear, the more fear will play with us. May we find a way to grow more tolerant and understanding of each other so that we may build a world that does not teach our children to hate.
BIG LOVE & HUGS