In the latest episode of France versus a wet suit, the French towns of Cannes, Villeneuve-Loubet and Sisco, fifteen in total, have banned swimwear designed for Muslim women called the burkini. This week has seen the grotesque images of four armed policemen stand over a Muslim lady whilst she is forced to take off her long sleeved top on a Nice beach.
The justification for this has ranged from being a sign of oppression, the burkini raising certain hygiene issues and its link to terror groups abroad as claimed by the Mayor of Cannes. The arguments when given deeper scrutiny are incredibly weak and lazy; they actually show the weakness of French secular values in dealing with its Muslim population.
The claim that the burkini, in reality a wetsuit, poses a threat to French society is pathetic. To argue that a garment that covers the body and head poses more of a threat to society than things like alcohol abuse is absurd. By guilt of association some have cited the ban on the burkini as the burqa is also worn by extremists abroad; which is a bit like saying that since the leader of ISIS wears a watch, and French politicians wear watches, watches should be banned!
Even though on Friday France’s top administrative court suspended the ban in Villeneuve-Loubet on civil liberties grounds, a number of mayors have said they will continue applying the bathing suit ban. Reaching for bans highlights the failure of French values and no amount of reasoning can excuse the naked inability of secularism to intellectually deal with the belief of Muslims and Islam’s dress code.
With a whole host of socio-economic problems affecting French society, the authorities have shifted the attention of the French people to a piece of cloth. It seems crime, rising poverty, drug trafficking and prostitution are not important enough to be addressed. These attempts to shift the public eye summarises the state of French secularism today. Whilst the rhetoric on one side is to accommodate French Muslims, who make up a minority of the public, the rhetoric of vilification has done the opposite. French society has for long been dominated by racism and exclusion of minorities, despite their claims of aiming to achieve unity and equality through a Burkini ban.
Corsica banned the burkini wetsuit on the basis of ‘protecting the population’ after a brawl between some Muslims and locals when the Muslim families had taken offence to pictures being taken of a woman in a burkini, without knowing the details – it’s needless to say that violence is no solution to these challenges. Yet there is never a ban on bikinis when women complain about perverts and people watching them with ulterior motives. Freedom of belief goes out the window when it concerns Muslims, and the use of a cloth to push an anti-Islamic agenda by all sectors of the society demonstrates the weakness of the secular ideology.
Whilst Muslims across Europe are being targeted through this ban and other restrictions, the Islamic belief guarantees the protection of all citizen’s beliefs, worships, values and dietary needs. The strength of the Islamic belief is in the fact that the protection of non-Muslims is set in Islamic texts and cannot be changed due to the whims of people, the expediency of politicians or due to a ‘perceived’ national security threat. This then allows non-Muslim citizens to go about their daily life, knowing the rules established for them, not needing to worry about any thought or attire police chasing them.