OPINION: France’s burkini bans are part of larger problems


Alex Weidner, Opinion Editor

It’s been almost a full year since U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed barring Muslims entry into the country. While there are no regulations on the religion in America as of this writing, France is another story.

In mid-August, David Lisnar, mayor of Cannes, placed a ban on a popular swimsuit for Muslim women called the burkini. This swimsuit features full-body and head coverage, leaving the face, hands and feet uncovered. Lisnar said the burkinis are symbolic of extremism, and go against France’s founding as a secular nation.

Burkinis are not new to France. The swimsuit was the center of controversy in 2009 when a public pool outside of Paris banned the swimsuit over hygiene concerns, and for ultimately violating a rule against swimming while clothed.

In 2011, France enacted a law that banned any form of headscarf that covered the face.

The ban against burkinis spread across the country, with cities like Nice—where a moving truck was driven into a Bastille Day crowd earlier this summer in an act of terrorism by ISIS–enacting their own versions.

French mayors stood by the ban, and the Prime Minister of France Manuel Valls even decried the swimwear as part of an agenda “based notably on the enslavement of women.”

While French leaders adamantly stand behind their bans on the modest swimwear, other members of the French government do not agree.

France’s high court, the Council of State, ruled that the ban in the town of Villeneuve-Loubet illegally infringed on religious and individual liberties, which they consider to be fundamental rights.

These bans on religious expression, just like Trump’s proposed ban of Muslims in the United States, are toxic and dangerous rhetoric. Instilling into a nation a sense of fear of Islamic people is an act of propaganda that promotes Islamohobia. When leaders blame all members of the Islamic faith for the acts of terrorism carried out by a small extremist faction, they send a message of hatred towards the Muslim people.

Furthermore, burkini bans target women specifically. Those who argue against Islamic dress claim that the need to cover the head and face is restrictive of women’s rights and controlling over their bodily rights.

The irony seems to be lost on those who claim Islam restricts women’s rights, when Western society has been doing the same for decades. When the bikini was first introduced in the 1940s, it was seen as racy and too revealing. It took a few decades before the bikini was seen as an acceptable form of swimwear.

Western society will criticize Islamic practices and Sharia law for being controlling over women, but will go to extreme lengths to tell women what they can and can’t wear.

Western leaders are doing as much as they can to demonize the entire Islamic faith, and the hatred has manifested itself with France’s ban on the burkini. Besides promoting Islamophobia, the ban speaks volumes about how Western society—and the rest of the world—treat women.

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Twitter: @WeidnerTWW