The burkini debate: What or what not to wear

By Tina Beattie, in The Tablet UK, Sept.1, 2016.

The row over burkinis is a reminder not only of the attitude of Islam to women’s bodies but also of the presumptions about the female form in Christianity, Judaism and secular society.

(Note: This article is taken from The Tablet the international Catholic news weekly journal that has been published continually since 1840. It reports on religion current affairs, politics, social issues, literature and the arts with a special emphasis on Roman Catholicism while remaining ecumenical. It is committed to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. According to its present first lady editor Catherine Pepinster, who was formerly executive editor of The Independent on Sunday, the journal will continue to provide a forum for “progressive, but responsible Catholic thinking, a place where orthodoxy is at home but ideas are welcome.” 

Now to the topic. What to wear and what to eat is to be left to personal choice, as long as it does not offend another’s legitimate rights. Here the question is about  dress code. Certain clubs and organizations prescribe special dress for their formal meetings, as certain schools have special dress for the students. These regulations have to be respected and obeyed by those who want to be members in those clubs or schools. 

Dress is meant basically to cover one’s nakedness. One can overdo it by covering even one’s face or underdo it to the ridiculous state of wearing only a fig leaf. Both are usually not the accepted rule the world over except in some Muslim countries. But here the question is about Muslims who have been  living  in a Muslim closed society, but who now want to live in a non-Muslim open secular country where they want to wear a dress their religion prescribes in their home country but  not in their host country. 

I have never been able to understand the  logic and conduct of some of the Muslims who want to use and benefit from all the freedoms their host country permits,  but would not allow those very freedom to foreigners in their own theocratic countries. A bridge is for two way  traffic, not one way. Those who demand freedoms which their country denies to foreigners should not either go or  be permitted entry, much less residence in an open society. You are free to behave as you like in your home, not in another’s house. It is just  common sense James Kottorthat you should not demand from another what you are not ready to share or give, especially in this era when equality and personal freedoms are highly respected and enforced. Readers are most welcome to send in their views. james kottoor, editor)

At least 30 mayors of French coastal towns have banned the burkini, a head-to-toe swimming costume, on the grounds that the clothing was a sign of oppression, at odds with France’s commitment to liberty. One woman fined by the police revealed that her ticket said her outfit did not respect “good morals and secularism”. A photo published last week of a Muslim woman on a beach in Nice, being forced by armed policemen to remove part of her costume, caused widespread outrage. It was the most extreme example of France’s response to the burkini, which offers covering for women who want to comply with Islam’s modesty codes. 
In a test case, France’s top administrative court, the Conseil d’État, suspended the burkini ban in one town, thus making the bans illegal but the majority of mayors are keeping the bans, claiming the burkini is Islamist and that it represents the salafisation of society. Many of the bans are in seaside resorts close to Nice where Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drove a lorry into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in July this year, killing 86 people.

Comment by: Robert (Posted: 02/09/2016)

I completely agree with Spotlight on all the points made.

Comment by: Ishvara (Posted: 02/09/2016)

I cannot agree with you more "spotlight'' when you precisely identify the real issue behind the dress codes of Muslim women, when you say, "It is the height of disrespect and insensitivity to parade your Islamic difference (a nose-thumbing gesture) to a population still reeling from Islamic terrorism." Burkini remains a challenge even without terrorism. It is a rejection of a host community and culture to which Muslims resort to for protection from exploitation. It is a visible metaphor of refusal to honour and integrate into a welcoming community. Such a mind set leads the host community to consider the Muslims as a threat to its own existence. It sees the exclusiveness typified by the burkini as another open affront as the one finger salute associated with the Daesh (ISIS). It is vital that we remain vigilant always with a clear mind.

Comment by: spotlight (Posted: 01/09/2016) 

A very confused and confusing article–the burkini controversy seems to have been used as an excuse to expound a lot of other issues that concern the author, but end up creating a non-cohesive tangle of multiple loose ends. Yes, we are generating "more heat than light" in politicised (and often absurd) discussions about sex and gender. And Yes, the way we dress is a way of projecting (or, quite literally in the burkini case, covering up) our identities…and yes we should dress to respect others—family, relatives, fellow workers, etc.— but the coda about male power intruding on this personal negotiation is simply silly. The Burkinied Muslim woman may not be free to negotiate how she dresses in a patriarchal religion, and that should be of concern to all human rights advocates. Then on the issue of dressing to respect others– it is the height of disrespect and insensitivity to parade your Islamic difference (a nose-thumbing gesture) to a population still reeling from Islamic terrorism. 

I would like to ask Beattie to apply her analysis to the following: how would she feel about a Klu Klux Klan member parading thru a black neighborhood in Alabama in full regalia, pointy hat and all? Or, what would she think about a Protestant Orangeman wearing all his anti-papist regalia parading thru a Catholic neighborhood in N. Ireland? 
No place for protest? a simple act of self-expression? ……..really                 

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *