A Muslim surf lifesaver and burkini designer on a beach [Photo: Getty]
France is known for its controversial attitude towards niqābs and face-covering veils designed for Muslim women. And after banning wearing any face-obscuring headgear in public in 2011, there’s now a new item of clothing surrounded by controversy; the burkini.
The burkini is basically body-covering (but not face-covering) swimwear for Muslim women who wish to cover up up while swimming. Its status in France has caused occasional debates before, but just recently, three towns (Villeneuve-Loubet, Cannes and Sisco on the island of Corsica) have banned it.
Why now? Well, the mayors that imposed the ban say it’s to do with upholding France’s secular values, and to protect women from being forced to cover their faces.
A Corsican beach [Photo: Flickr/Kevin]
The swimwear was also reportedly the cause of a fight on a beach in Sisco that broke out between Muslim families and a group of young Corsicans on Saturday.
The socialist government’s minister for women’s rights, Laurence Rossignol, told French daily Le Parisien: “It is not just the business of those women who wear it, because it is the symbol of a political project that is hostile to diversity and women’s emancipation.”
But does a ban like this in fact encroach on individual freedoms? Imagine if you wanted to stay covered up on a beach, but were legally prevented from doing so.
A woman wearing a niqāb celebrates Eid al-Adha [Photo: Getty]
Since the July attacks in Nice and the Paris attacks last year, tensions between communities have also been particularly high - therefore many argue that imposing bans on Muslim groups will only make relationships worse.
Marwan Muhammad, a spokesman for the Collective against Islamophobia in France, told the Guardian that “This summer we are witnessing a hysterical political Islamophobia that pits citizens against one another.”
So is banning burkinis about protecting women, or is it endangering women’s freedom?
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