It’s surreal to think that after massive Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice that the next controversy in this clash of cultures is over appropriate swimwear.
Recently, 20 municipalities in southern France have banned the burkini, a full body bathing suit worn by Muslim women to keep the modest appearance required by their faith. Explanations from the ban have ranged from upholding French moral values to keeping in accordance to secularism.
Something important to understand is that freedom of religion isn’t a right in France. The country recognizes churches, temples and mosques as proprietary entities, but does not recognize their religions. Burkas have been banned in public since 2010, being condemned by parties on both the left and right. Burkas aren’t technically required by Islamic law, but the Quran does tell Muslims to dress modestly. Burkinis were, for a while, exempt from that law as they kept the woman’s face visible.
I think the burkini ban is unjust. Wearing a burkini or a burka by itself is not causing anyone any mortal harm. They might go against the France’s mainstream views on sexuality and women’s freedom, but they are worn presumably by the choice of the Islamic women. Sending armed police officers after them and robbing them of their property through fines at gunpoint is causing them harm and is a violation of the non-aggression principle and is injust.
Thinking about the other point of view, I understand the position of those supporting the ban. I believe it’s totally reasonable for someone who moves and takes a permanent residence in a new country to take their customs, language and way of life. Insisting on keeping the culture from the country you’re leaving (for whatever reason) and passing it on to your children (who are born and automatically become citizens of the host nation) can understandably be seen as colonization and aggression and is asking for trouble. Afterall, it’s the rising number of migrants who refuse to assimilate into French culture, as well as the terrorist attacks that spawn from that’s leading to the rise in popularity of the right wing political party National Front, which made tremendous gains in the past election.
Either way, I don’t see this issue bearing too much importance. Yes the ban has been supported by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who’s trying to appeal to the right, but he’d do even better by promising to start putting a cap on the current migration situation. I truly think this is controlled opposition for France’s growing right wing sentiment. If the far-right party Front Nationale didn’t earn 28% of the total votes in the 2015 regional elections, then politicians like Sarkozy wouldn’t be promising to ban burkinis, in fact he would instead most likely condemn those supporting the ban.
In the end, I think it’s a futile gesture, similar to the addition of “under God” to the pledge in an effort to keep God in the American lifestyle. It isn’t going to do anything to root out the bigger problem of Islamic fundamentalism and violence brought on by unlimited migration.
Vincent Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.