A ban on the burkini swimsuit on several French beaches violates women’s rights, demonstrates intolerance and could backfire, according to News-Decoder ambassadors.

burkini
A woman in a burkini, Tunis, Tunisia, 28 August 2016.
(EPA/Mohamed Messara)

We asked News-Decoder’s ambassadors — a network of young adults around the world who believe in our mission — for their thoughts on a ban imposed by several French municipalities on the burkini swimsuit worn by some Muslim women. Here’s what four of them had to say.

“Ultimately a woman’s body is solely hers.”
– Hannah Bedford

Hardly two generations ago, a woman could not go into the street in trousers without causing a commotion. Now police are forcing women to strip on the beach in the name of secularism and hygiene.

Hannah Bedford

What example is being set for women everywhere when politicians have the right to dictate what a woman wears?

As a women, I feel as though I am bombarded as to what I should be doing with my body, how I should dress, how I should act. Everyone has an opinion of what the definition of a liberated woman should be. This is the reality in the world of free speech but becomes unacceptable in the form of laws forced upon women as though they are not fit to make the decision for themselves.

In Asia, they wear a garment that is very similar to a burkini because they believe pale skin is an attractive quality and don’t want to tan on the beach. They even cover their hands and feet. The accepted European standard of tanned being attractive doesn’t fit this idea, but that doesn’t mean we are trying to change what they wear. They are acting out of their own beliefs and not hurting anybody.

I do not see how wearing a burkini is so different.

Finally, I think that this is a reaction to the violence in France, but at least to me, the answer is not to heighten tensions by highlighting and targeting this clothing choice. By reducing the matter to what a woman wears, it oversimplifies a complex issue causing mistrust while not providing any actual solutions.

Ultimately a woman’s body is solely hers. What she wears is her decision, and it should be respected.

***

“People who already feel excluded will feel more marginalized.”

– Ruben Tjon-A-Meeuw

I personally believe that burkinis should not be banned in public. While there are certain security or identity concerns that could potentially justify the burqa/niqab ban dating back to 2010, such reasoning cannot possibly apply in this case.

rtjonameeuw (337x423)It is still entirely possible to identify assailants wearing a burkini. While a religious gown covering one’s face is arguably not compatible with Western European or French values since face-to-face contact is a very important part of human interaction in this region, the problem does not arise when talking about burkinis.

What is more, my understanding of laïcité, or secularism, does not include the banning of symbols of religion in the public sphere in general, merely the neutrality of the state towards them (i.e. no civil servants should outwardly display their religion). Therefore, while a police officer or teacher should not wear a religious garment, a private individual should be able to do so.

The argument that the burkini fosters “religious antagonism” or demonstrates some sort of radical Islam is the one that makes the least sense to me. If anything, people who already feel excluded from society — in France, there are quite a few — will potentially feel even more marginalized and convinced that the state is trying to repress and reject them.

Last but not least, when there is so much doubt about the usefulness of a policy such as a ban on burkinis, my default instinct is to revert to liberal principles. Everyone should be allowed to wear, do or speak as they desire, as long as it does not significantly impinge on the freedom of others.

***

“There is no right and wrong when it comes to someone else’s faith.”

– Maria Isabel dos Santos Veiga

maria-isabel (590x640)In a world full of violence and pain, we are a long way from being able to tolerate differences among people.

There is no right and wrong when it comes to someone else’s faith and way of life. If the faith and way of life do not lead to damage, as I think is the case with a woman wearing a burkini, it is OK.

This is wrong!

***

“Instead of liberating women, a ban only serves to oppress them.”

– Alec Fullerton

afullerton (288x355)It is indisputable that the burqa, along with its aquatic counterpart, the burkini, is a deeply oppressive, out-dated and even anti-social tool that has been used to oppress women for thousands of years. I’m sure most rational, free-thinking people would agree.

But simply banning it will only make the problem worse. Ironically, instead of liberating women, a ban only serves to further oppress them. Attitudes won’t change magically overnight, so all it means is women are forced to remain inside or risk being fined.

At a time of such uncertainty and internal tension, the last thing France needs is this misguided, illiberal and divisive ban.


Hannah Bedford is studying History and Politics at Royal Holloway University in London.

Ruben Tjon-A-Meeuw is in his second year of undergraduate studies at King’s College London, pursuing a degree in European Studies.

Maria Isabel dos Santos Veiga was born and lives in Brazil, speaks four languages and is interested in diplomacy, international politics, world history and culture.

Alec Fullerton is in his third year at Oxford University, studying French. He is aspiring journalist and has written for online publications in Britain, including The Spectator and Spiked-Online.

One comment

Reflections on France and the burkini

  1. One writer says the law treats women as if they are not fit to make the decision themselves. That’s true but conveniently ignores the fact that burkinis are in fact ordered by males of their faith. The irony is that either way, the women are not making their own choice. Journalists continue to ignore this paradox.

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