Burkini blues in France

Since 2015, France has suffered 237 deaths in indiscriminate Islamist terrorist attacks, culminating in an 84-year-old priest’s throat being slit during a church service and recorded on video

The resulting shock and horror shook French Muslims out of their moral complacence and had their Imams forcefully dissociating their faith community from terrorists and terrorism

 French Muslims were significantly present at Catholic memorial masses held for the slain priest

This reaction did not go un-appreciated by their fellow citizens

Yet, good will has been trounced once again to ensure that the prevailing perception of bitterness receives its fodder

In the wake of Father Jacques Hamel’s assassination, there were expectations that French Muslims would keep a low profile and let everybody get on with their holidays

Alas, the bid by Muslim ladies in burkinis to join their co-citizens on the beaches was either poorly timed or mischievously inspired

It has certainly succeeded in provoking a reaction which is liable to strengthen no-go areas and mind-sets

Just four weeks after the Bastille Day truck massacre in Nice, the presence of Burkinis on its beaches was perceived as flaunting a faith community’s cultural exclusiveness and taunting France with its own liberalism while the nation was still in shock

So far, nine cities and towns have banned the burkini on their beaches, citing it as a threat to French secularism and public hygiene

Although any such interdiction may be democratically questionable, the emergence of the burkini is even more interesting

After all, for around 1400 years since the birth of Islam, there was no burkini

Muslim women went to the seaside for a stroll, sometimes wading into the water fully clothed but never caused a raised eyebrow

They did wear the burqa, though

Mostly worn by Muslim women, a burqa is full body coverage which may or may not hide the face

A bikini is a two piece swimsuit

Some Muslim women, unwilling to expose their bodies to public view, wear a shortened version of the burqa which is like a full-length wet-suit with a hood

It is called a burkini and can be bought on Amazon from approximately $31

49 dollars and up

At the risk of digressing, this writer does feel compelled to express his surprise at the disproportionate modesty of bare-chested males in Bermuda shorts escorting their ladies in burkinis

In 2009, in France, a Muslim woman was barred from entering a swimming pool in a burkini on hygienic grounds

It would have been wiser for a community leader to have approached the municipal authorities to present the case that Muslim women were unable to go to a swimming pool during mixed timings and ask for separate women’s hour

Needless to say, it would have been rejected on the grounds of gender segregation, but at least an eventual Supreme Court ruling would have ensured against any lingering resentment

Instead, this year’s provocation — as it is perceived to be — has succeeded in further isolating French Muslims from their fellow citizens in a dangerous space

It is always this isolated space that provides passive support to different stages and manifestations of political violence

And it started 27 years ago with the hijab, known as l’affaire du foulard in France

In 1989, citing a French law against ostentatious religious symbols in secular educational institutions, a high school principal in Creil, near Paris, expelled three schoolgirls for wearing the hijab

 L’affaire du foulard caused furore for the next 15 years, from the streets, to liberal cafés to the Supreme Court

The media had a field day

During this period, the French felt their secularism brazenly violated by a minority faith community; whereas the latter felt they were being victimised for their choice of dress

Yet the question of what led these three schoolgirls to wear the hijab and the principal to expel them remains a dusty puzzle

Finally, in 2004, the hijab headscarf was officially banned in all French schools

But the damage had been done

In 15 years, no bigot on either side had been able to see a non-confrontational way out of the deadlock

In response to the ban in schools, thousands of Muslim women chose to wear the hijab to proclaim a fundamental right

A community already struggling hard with integration found itself further alienated and ripe for the whispers that sought to keep it thus

And after a year of horrific bloodletting, instead of dousing communal polemics by socialising on the beaches, the burkini has reignited communal polemics, obscuring the elegance of arguments in favour of the controversial garment

Artfully inserted as a test-case of applied liberalism, the controversial world-views at the heart of the issue remain sublimely self-righteous and, as such, non-negotiable

While one side is now convinced of treason, the other cries discrimination

The burkini on French beaches is viewed as an open challenge by the French

The ban is interpreted by law-abiding Muslims as an institutional reprisal for the heinous acts of a few

On this issue, the liberal argument has reached its watershed and liberals find themselves stuck between a rock and hard place

With neither side willing to concede an inch, it’s a lose-lose situation for French citizens of all communities

Date:25-Aug-2016 Reference:View Original Link