Source: Based on Giorgio Montersino's image
We discuss the burkini controversy and history of this Islamic swimwear. We also outline the pros and cons of the burkini and whether the decision in some French towns to ban it was correct or simply an expression of Islamophobia.
The ban on the Islamic swimwear, commonly known as a "burkini", in some towns in France has created an enormous controversy across Europe. The name is a blend of the words burqa and bikini and refers to a swimsuit which covers the whole body of the woman except for the face, feet and hands in order to respect the Islamic traditions of modest dress. Although the Council of State, the highest court in France, has suspended the burkini ban that was enforced in some municipalities Southern France, the issue remains far from being settled. Many argue that the burkini ban was in line with secularism and some of the founding principles of the French Republic. Others think that prohibition is a step too far, and that even those who want to empower Muslim women should understand that imposition is not the solution. We debate whether prohibiting the burkini is a good or bad idea. Read more about the burkini's history, its advantages and disadvantages, vote in our poll and leave your point of view in the comment section below.
History of burkini
The burkini or burqini is a type of full-body swimsuit created in 2004 by Aheda Zanetti, an Australian fashion designer of Lebanese origin who had observed how Muslim women struggle to practice some sports and to swim at the beach wearing their traditional clothing. Aheda Zanetti first thougth of designing a "hijood" a combination of the hijab and a hood to facilitate the practice of sports among religious Muslim girls. She got inspiration by observing her niece playing netball while wearing tracksuit pants, a skivvy and her hijab.
Later on she realized that bathing with a veil was also an uncomfortable experience and she founded a company and registered the burkini and burqini brands. This Islamic swimmsuit became a success, in particular after Surf Lifesaving Australia launched a program to integrate Muslim boys and girls into surf lifesaving. Her company has sold more than 500,000 units since their creation. In 2016 the sales of burkini went up 40% and there are several other brands producing similar swimwear for religious Muslim women. What Aheda Zanetti envisaged as a piece of clothing meant for the comfort and empowerment of Muslim women is now considered by many as a new way to facilitate the maintenance of gender discrimination among Muslims communities.
Pros and cons of the burkini ban
These are some of the most commonly advanced arguments pro and against the burkini ban. Feel free to add more arguments on the comment section below.
In favor of the burkini ban:
- In France the burqa and niqab are banned; the prohibition of the burkini is consistent with those previous restrictions.
- The ban is a way to protect secularism and gender equality.
- Many Muslim women may be more comfortable wearing other types of swimwear which does not cover their neck, head and legs.
- Burkini does not allow women to get a tan, except on their faces, hands and feet.
- Why are Muslim women supposed to wear a full-body swimsuit while Muslim men can simply use Western-style swimwear?
- The ban could help some Muslim women to emancipate themselves and escape from a dress code imposition they may not like. It may give them leverage when explaining their husbands or familiy that they want to go to the beach and enjoy it as non-Muslim women do.
Against the ban on burkini:
- The burkini does not cover the face of the woman, and so this is just a modest swimwear, not necessarily a religious one. Therefore the ban in France of the niqab and burqa should not be extended to this type of swimsuit.
- Burkini resembles enormously a full-length wetsuit with a hood. Therefore, if wetsuits are not banned, why should burkinis be disallowed?
- In some traditional families the Islamic swimsuit allows women to go to the beach and swimming pool. Without the burkini some of them would not be going to the beach at all. It can be even considered an intermediary step toward emancipation.
- The prohibition of wearing burkini goes against individual rights and liberties. Even if some women are forced to use them, many others choose freely to wear it.
- Assuming that all, or most, women that use burkini are doing it against their own will or interests is difficult to prove and may be considered a patronizing attitude which goes against the very same principle of women's empowerment which the ban is supposed to uphold.
- Many supporters of the ban against burkini do not really have any feminist intention and do not care about the well being of Muslim women. This ban can be interpreted as Islamophobia, a way to make more difficult the life of Muslims in the West.
What do you think about the burkini? And about its prohibition? Is this a feminist pro-women's empowerment policy or mainly the expression of a growing anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe?
If you change your mind, you can change your vote simply by clicking on another option.
Burkini pros and cons and ban: Is Islamic swimwear a good idea for Muslim women?
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