Geneva. A city proud of its distinction as a global hub for diplomacy and embracing of a motto indicating light after darkness has sadly lost its art for dealing with people in a sensitive and effective way. What exactly has taken Geneva into darkness? It’s new law banning women, specifically Muslim women, from wearing the burkini to public swimming pools.
Much like the failed attempt by France this year to ban the full covering wetsuit worn by women seeking to swim modestly in public, Geneva is now taking a dive into murky waters to attempt their own ban on the burkini. The claim that the city council has declared is that it’s a matter of hygiene. Yet since the law’s language is targeted towards a ban on the burkini, it then becomes a direct splash towards targeting Muslim women. The argument that the burkini is unhygienic is simply an undercover language for segregation. Specific guidelines have been given for what exactly is allowed in a public pool area and they are clearly prohibitive of any woman or man who wishes to wear a swimsuit that covers their body entirely. Promoters of such laws argue that such laws instill European values, yet these laws are truly far from enhancing the values that Europe espouses.
Banning the burkini falls under the precept in limiting a woman’s right to choose what she wears. Such laws are in many ways oppressive and are contrary to European secular values. Women should be allowed to choose their personal attire and in no way should be forced to accept laws that go against their personal or religious values. Once a city begins to segregate women based on their personal beliefs a slippery slope begins that makes women an outcast rather than an integrated part of society. Eventually, this public ostracization will be enforced in schools, public buildings and other shared spheres of society. Segregation and alienation have detrimental effects on any civilization and further wedge any real chance in promoting respect, tolerance, and equality.
Women who choose to cover their body should not be viewed as presenting an oppressive display of their physique. In reality, their choice to shun any attire that is overtly revealing in public only upholds traditional standards set by Europeans as a form of decorum of respect and decency. The burkini is in no way a symbol of oppression and it is appalling for those making the case that it is somehow similar to wearing a swastika in public. This is an extreme and disturbing comparison, to say the least. The swastika is representative of oppression and hate whereas the burkini is simply an option in modest attire for swimming and is no different than wetsuits worn by many swimmers or people who have issues regarding exposure to the sun or other skin conditions.
Geneva’s city council should consider the words of the worldwide spiritual leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community the Khalifa of Islam His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad who has stated that on the one hand Western governments attack Islam indicating that there is compulsion and hardship in it, while on the other side they are guilty of interfering in others personal matters. Laws like the burkini ban claiming to free women are actually imposing restrictions upon them by not allowing them the right to choose their own clothing. Those who see the burkini as oppressive should really begin to tackle the root causes of oppression which lie in discrimination, lack of access to services, and unequal economic opportunities. These injustices against women are prevalent worldwide and banning a woman’s right to her personal attire is a direct form of true and real oppression.
Furthermore, a legal ban against the burkini is no different than governments that restrict women’s rights. Muslim women must be given the ability to make decisions about their lives and religion and not be banned by this choice. Rather they should be supported and not have any city regulate and limit how a woman expresses her religious beliefs with her outward appearance. This clothing ban is an interference to how Muslim women present themselves while actively participating in Geneva’s society. Geneva should encourage the freedom that Muslim women have made to wear the burkini by allowing them the right to practice their beliefs publicly. The city council is prohibiting women’s rights and needs to look beyond what a woman wears if they truly want an emancipated society. Otherwise, such laws will inevitably force the targeted women to drop out of public view and by having these women hidden, Geneva will promote the oppression and offenses it claims to be fighting.
Geneva must protect itself from past European failures of ostracizing people to make them feel like outcasts. It should realize that such bans only end result will be a segregated and disenfranchised society. By pretending the burkini ban is about hygiene, Geneva is only fooling itself and enabling discrimination. And sadly by doing so, Geneva is closing the door on any liberty and light it once proclaimed.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not necessarily those of World Religion News.
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