France’s controversial ‘burkini ban’, has rightly caused outrage across the world. What began as a temporary ban of the garment in one, single French holiday resort has quickly spread to at least 15 French towns, including along the country’s famous Riviera.
The justification for this ban is that the burkini itself is “ostentatiously showing a religious affiliation” during a time when France is at a high risk of terrorist attacks. Fear and paranoia can be understood in the context of the tragedy of the Bastille Day attack in Nice, which was only 18 miles away from Cannes, one of the first French towns to implement the burkini ban.
But we must ask ourselves if this is the most appropriate way to respond to the fears of the French population? This plays into the hands of the far-right racists of the Front Nationale.
By establishing a link between Islamic terrorism and a piece of swimwear, the trend of scapegoating innocent Muslims is allowed to continue, during a time when the whole community of 1.6 billion people is blamed for the horrendous actions of a tiny, extremist minority. No one is denying that the actions and ideology of Daesh, or ISIS, are one of the biggest threats in our world today. But what threat does a young mother at the beach with her children pose? No matter if it is a teenage girl or elderly grandmother, these women are just as entitled to make use of public spaces as the rest of French society.
Aheda Zannetti, creator of the burkini, has said in the wake of the ban, “I created the burkini to give women freedom, not to take it away”. By banning this piece of swimwear, French authorities have revealed their complicity in forcing the segregation of French Muslims. This is openly Islamophobic and will, if anything, increase support for extremist elements. After all, where is the outrage at Catholic nuns or modest Jewish women for not respecting “good customs and secularism”?
Whether it is a bikini or burkini, the State and their agents have no right to dictate to women what they can and cannot wear. The ‘burkini ban’ is misogynistic, racist and furthers the isolation of French Muslim women, in a society where they are already one of the most vulnerable groups. For these reasons, we as socialists must oppose the ban and fight for the equality and freedom of all people; especially in a country where ‘liberty, egality, fraternity’ was already promised to them.