There’s a full-fledged political debate going on in France over, well, proper swimming attire.
On Sunday, a small town on the island of Corsica became the third city in France to outlaw burkinis, a form of modest swimwear worn by some Muslim women. The town’s mayor imposed the ban after violent clashes erupted between villagers and three Muslim families, leaving several injured. The details of what caused the brawl are unclear, but officials determined that somehow, someway a burkini was to blame.
Laurence Rossignol, the French government’s minister for women’s rights, defended the burkini bans in the three cities on Tuesday saying, “The burkini is not some new line of swimwear, it is the beach version of the burqa and it has the same logic: hide women’s bodies in order to better control them.”
The head of municipal services in Cannes, one of the three cities that have banned the burkini, told AFP: “We are not talking about banning the wearing of religious symbols on the beach... but ostentatious clothing which refers to an allegiance to terrorist movements which are at war with us.”
But as Muslim scholar Huda Jawad pointed out in The Independent, such bans end up “singling out the most visible and vulnerable group in society,” and blaming them for larger societal ills.
“Since when did wearing a burkini, in most cases a loose fitting nylon version of a wetsuit, become an act of allegiance to terrorist movements?” Jawad wrote. “Do Marks & Spencer or House of Fraser know that their attempt to raise profits and exploit a gap in the over-saturated clothing market is selling and promoting allegiance to Isis? “
The logic of proponents’ arguments is that women who wear burkinis are either a) oppressed or b) terrorists. And such is the reductive stereotyping Muslim women have become all too familiar with in recent years.
Several Twitter users and media outlets managed to find some humor in the burkini uproar ― and point out its hypocrisy: