Last week, different towns and cities in France decided to ban the burkini swimsuit worn by Muslim and – generically speaking – modest women. The burkini is a modest swimwear that covers the head and the body. Following the ban, images of armed French policemen making a woman on a beach take off parts of her burkini surfaced and went viral.
A few years back, France banned the Islamic burqa and niqab in public, rendering women who wear either of the two in a state of house arrest, unable to go shopping, walk in the streets or even pick up their children from school. The ban was made to protect the “dignity” of women and protect “gender equality”. In response to that, a point should be made that when you force a woman into anything against her will, you are not protecting her dignity but rather hurting it. Gender equality has nothing to do with attire, but has everything to do with equal freedom and equal expression.
“The ban was made to protect the “dignity” of women and protect “gender equality”.”
Now, in 2016, the burkini has been banned in different towns such as Nice and Cannes. In addition to that, French Prime Minister Manual Valls has called for a ban on the Islamic headscarves in universities. In response to this call, according to The Guardian, the Higher Education Minister Thierry Mandon responded saying that students are adults, and “have every right to wear the headscarf. The headscarf is not banned in French society.”
The images that recently went viral, showing Siam – a woman on a beach in Nice – being forced to remove parts of her burkini, were taken on Promenade des Anglais shore in Nice. Prior to this incident, a mother of two also reported being fined on another shore near Cannes, and given a ticket that stated she was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism”. Since when did modesty become an expression of bad morals and disrespect? Everyone should be free to dress however they see fit according to their beliefs as long as they are not harming anyone.
“the French PM who is all for the ban on headscarves, has previously spoken in public in a Jewish kippah”
These two incidents are both disturbing and show the ignorance and lack of tolerance the French government has. As a quick piece of information, the French PM who is all for the ban on headscarves, has previously spoken in public in a Jewish kippah – a flat, hemispherical-shaped cap worn by Jewish people for religious reasons. See the irony? Why is it OK for him to freely support his wife of Jewish origins by wearing a religious symbol, and not OK for Muslim women to support and express their religious beliefs through the headscarf?
Perhaps the most ironic point in all of this can be drawn from the French constitution. According to the first article in the French Constitution of October 4, 1958 – which is the effective constitution in France today: “France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs…” If law enforcers and government officials – such as the Prime Minister himself – cannot respect and abide by their very own constitution, then they are by no means fit for their positions.
“If law enforcers and government officials – such as the Prime Minister himself – cannot respect and abide by their very own constitution, then they are by no means fit for their positions.”
The Prime Minister has previously expressed his belief that women in headscarves are oppressed and therefore banning the headscarf is eliminating oppression. Here is one simple question in response to that: are nuns that cover their full bodies and choose to live a different way of life oppressed? No. Are Orthodox female Jews that choose to cover their full bodies and wear a headscarf, oppressed? Again, no. They do so because they want and choose to do so. So how come the veil, the burqa and the niqab cannot be approached with the same mentality? It’s about time we start noticing that such actions are a product of untainted racism, and have nothing to do with morals, protection and all the justifications constantly and falsely fed to the public.