The Green Hope Falcon

France Treading In Deep Water With Burkini Ban

Sonia Rao, Staff Writer

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By Giorgio Montersino from Milan, Italy (cool burkini) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We live in a society where women are constantly being encouraged to show skin. Advertisements on TV, billboards, magazines, and online often show girls wearing revealing clothing.  Department stores are filled with racks of short shorts and crop tops galore.  So when the world criticizes women who cover up instead of dress down, one has to question this hypocrisy.

In 2004, France passed a law that banned the wearing of religious emblems, including headscarves and hijabs, in public schools.  In 2010, France became the first European country to ban the full-body burqa, which includes a face veil, in public.  Now, about 30 French towns have attempted to ban the burkini, a full-body swimsuit that was created to allow Muslim women to swim in public.  The swimsuit, named for the portmanteau that blends burqa and bikini, covers all parts of a woman’s body but her face, hands, and feet. Although France’s highest court recently suspended the burkini ban, Muslim women are still facing constant backlash for their choice of swimwear, even being fined and forced to leave public beaches by local officers.  

If I were to walk along a public beach in France in a pair of jeans and a long-sleeve shirt, I might get a couple of odd glances, sure, but I would not be attacked with verbal assaults or attempts to physically remove me from the beach. So it is clear that the cause of such widespread outrage is a larger issue than just fashion. 

With recent extremist attacks such as the one in Paris last November, many French citizens seem to be quick to connect the religious coverings to radical Islam.  Some government officials have even gone so far as to express worries that traditional clothing such as the burqa have the potential to be a symbol of the terrorism that has been plaguing both their country, our country,  and the world.  However, attempting to generalize an entire group of people due to the actions of a select few is a religious discrimination –  Islamophobia – towards the several million Muslims who live in France.

Another reason the burkini ban came to exist is that many people seem to be under the impression that women wearing a burqa, hijab, or other religious covering are oppressed. On the contrary, most Muslim women are proud to display their faith.  Hijabs, burqas, niqabs, and other religious coverings are symbols of the Islamic religion, meant to focus on what is inside rather than the outside.  And although most women of the Islamic religion do not feel oppressed when they wear their coverings, Muslim women are being oppressed by being explicitly told that they are not allowed to wear certain garments by the French government.  

The burkini, developed in Australia by Lebanese-born Aheda Zanetti, was created to give Islamic women the opportunity to swim on beaches and in pools as they please.  It comes in many different styles, patterns, and colors just as traditional bathing suits do. But most importantly, the burkini represents freedom and diversity, not radicalism and oppression.  Whatever your opinion is on the burkini, it should not be anyone’s decision to tell a woman what to wear except her own.  

Hopefully, those in France will be able to cast aside their xenophobic views and embrace all cultures and diverse traditions equally.  

About the Writer
Sonia Rao, Editor-in-Chief
Sonia Rao is a senior at Green Hope High School and the editor-in-chief for The Falcon. In her free time she loves to read and play ultimate frisbee— which she does for three different teams! She hopes to find herself at UNC Chapel Hill next year, double majoring in journalism and business or journalism and...
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France Treading In Deep Water With Burkini Ban