Burkini Bans and Bigotry: The flaws in French logic when it comes to Muslim culture

In this Aug. 4 2016 file photo made from video, Nissrine Samali, 20, gets into the sea wearing a burkini, a wetsuit-like garment that also covers the head, in Marseille, southern France. France's top administrative court has overturned Friday Aug. 26, 2016 a town burkini ban amid shock and anger worldwide. (File Photo/AP)

In recent weeks, a previously overlooked swimsuit trend has been gaining rapid attention across the world. The burkini, the trademarked name for a type of bathing suit worn by some Muslim women, hit headlines two weeks ago when several French beach-goers wearing the garment were told they must remove the swimsuit and wear what was deemed “appropriate beach attire,” or be forced to leave the area altogether.

Since these conflicts, several French mayors have put a formal ban on the burkini, despite the French government’s assertion that the ban is illegal. Unfortunately, the suspension of the ban has done little to affect the individual cities which placed the restriction, which they still refuse to lift.

This ban has sparked controversy within France and across the globe. According to an article from NPR, supporters of the ban have claimed that the beachwear ban helps to “enhance security and defend French ideas of secularism in light of attacks in Nice and near Rouen." Manuel Valls, the prime minister of France and a proponent of the ban, has even gone so far as to say that the burkini represents the “enslavement of women."

This logic is flawed. While some may see the burkini as only representative of the oppression of women in the Muslim culture, this is not how these women view themselves. Coverings or headscarves are worn for a variety of different reasons stemming from culture and religion; they are not necessarily an obligation that needs to be upheld. If French officials continue to take away a Muslim women’s right to choose her clothing, they are contributing even more to the idea of enslavement of women than the clothing is. The ban that they are enforcing leads to a complete disempowerment of women, which is exactly what they claim to be trying to prevent.

This ban also blatantly disregards France’s constitutional rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech. By taking away a woman’s right to wear whatever type of swimwear she wants without just cause, the cities that uphold the bans are completely neglecting their national constitution. In turn, this raises the question: what else will the French government overlook?

Does the integrity of maintaining the constitutional rights of citizens no longer matter to France? Allowing this ban to continue will only further alienate the French population from their rights and open doors for future violations to go unnoticed and lack proper governing.

France’s claim that the ban on burkinis will help “enhance security” is grossly misguided. Forcing someone to denounce a part of their culture and religion in no way helps to create a more secure country; it only aims to harm the citizens affected. France’s attempt to lessen the physical appearance of their Muslim citizens in no way diminishes the presence of the culture and religion in the country. To think that this is a solution to terrorism is just ignorant. Simply put, having certain religious beliefs does not immediately qualify someone as a radical.

France is alienating itself as a whole from the rest of the world, and in turn may be making itself a less secure and more vulnerable nation. The target it has placed on its own Muslim community has already made the country susceptible to protests from within, and could greatly reduce the aid it receives from other countries that do not approve of the discrimination. If anything, France has created a less tolerant and more unstable country, instead of ensuring its own safety.

The French burkini ban shows a complete disregard for basic human rights. While government officials may claim that it was enforced with the intentions of keeping their nation peaceful and secure, it was merely an act of prejudice and religious xenophobia that should not be tolerated by the French government. The continued defense of the ban by city governors only serves to spread hate, and does nothing to support the idea of acceptance that the world desperately needs. In times of war and terror, it is things like the burkini that should pull our society together and breed tolerance; if only that were the case.


Emma Hungaski is an opinion contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.