Burkini Ban: Criminalizing Religious Modesty?
Photographs of armed, male police officers forcing a Muslim woman to remove her over-garment on a public, French beach are currently trending on social media. The woman was told to remove her long sleeve top (revealing a tank top underneath) and to tie her headscarf into a bandana. She was also fined for not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism.” One eyewitness was quoted in The Guardian, saying, “The saddest thing was that people were shouting ‘go home’, [and] some were applauding the police,” she said. “Her daughter was crying.”
This incident results from the recent ban by several French towns on a particular style of swimsuit, known as a burkini, which is often worn by Muslim women. Ironically, the woman in the picture was not even wearing a burkini; she was simply wearing a traditional headscarf. It is important to note that the burkini is nothing like the burqa. The best way to describe the burkini would be to compare the garment to a loose-fitting wetsuit with a hoodie over the top portion of the suit, leaving the wearer’s face fully visible. I can’t imagine that Catholic nuns will be prohibited from wearing their religious attire on the same beaches. One can easily sense that the principle of religious equality in secularism does not apply to Muslims. In order to understand the rationale behind the ban on burkinis, it is necessary to discuss the principle of secularism in France and its deep-seated theocratic phobia…