Burkini Ban Lifted, but Shock of Islamophobia Remains

By Michael Coghlan from Adelaide, Australia (Islamic Swimming) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Photos and videos of French policemen fining or forcing Muslim women to remove their garments show a frightening development in France.

The world was recently shocked by the decision of certain French cities to ban the burkini, swimwear specially designed for use by Muslim women during a beach trip. The burkini is a swimsuit that covers the whole body, including the hair. The French authorities justified their decision by saying that the new rule was passed to ensure religious neutrality on the beach.

The Council of State today reversed the ban, stating French Mayors do not have the authority to put such a rule in place.

However, while the ban was in place, several disturbing incidents took place. In one instance, a Muslim woman was told to remove the full-sleeved tunic she was wearing in front of everyone on the beach at Nice. This inhumane act by four armed policemen was also accompanied by a fine for wearing what the police thought was a religiously threatening piece of clothing. In another similar incident, a Muslim woman in Cannes was forced to do the same, even as her daughters were crying at the plight of their mother. According to a non-Muslim French eyewitness other people were cheering the police and shouting “go home.” Many such incidents have been occurring regularly after the ban on the burkini.

However, what makes these issues so surprising is that in most cases, the women were not even wearing burkas or burkinis! For example, the woman who was fined at Nice was only wearing a headscarf, a blue tunic and black pants. In the case of the Cannes incident, the woman, who only gave her name as Siam, was only wearing a headscarf. All these incidents, seem to appear to be targeted attacks rising from a growing Islamophobia. In most cases, the policemen were seen to be fully armed, pointing pepper spray at the faces of the women.

Ironically, ever since the ban came into force, burkini sales have sky-rocketed. The creator of the burkini, Aheda Zahetti, says that the ban has increased the demand for her swimsuits, and most of these orders come from non-Muslims. In-fact, she says she has received a number of support mails and messages from non-Muslims, all of whom are completely against the ban.

Human rights activists and other critics have condemned the ban as an infringement of France's secular laws. Critics have also demanded to know what stand the authorities will take towards Catholic nuns who wear their religious habits at beaches.

The ban was in force in 15 French cities.

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