France banned the burkini, but should the rest of Europe follow suit?
For those who do not know what the burkini is and why it is controversial, a burkini is a swimming costume worn by Muslim women. It is similar to a scuba diving suit, but it is looser and consists of a head-covering that resembles a swimming cap to cover the hair and neck. It was designed by Aheda Zanetti, an Australian woman. She realised the difficulty Muslim women faced while playing sports or going to the beach. The layers of clothes and flowing garments also posed the risk of drowning for the women. However, the burkini is also worn by other women who are body conscious and by women whose skin cannot be protected despite applying the whole bottle of sun cream.
A sign of oppression or freedom of choice?
It seems that banning a looser scuba diving suit that comes with a cap to protect your hair from getting wet seems silly. The burkini, besides preventing your hair from getting wet, also prevents salt and sand from getting into your hair and the endless itching that would follow. The burkini also protects from terrible sunburns. Because of its full-length coverage it is ideal for winter swimming, allowing you to enjoy more time at the beach without freezing. It is strange how this useful garment is deemed oppressive and supposedly supports terrorism.
Many people are pro-bikini, because according to them it represents freedom for women to wear whatever they want. Burkini sckeptics are concerned that the burkini is a sign of oppression, which is not true because women choose to wear it. Another reason is security concerns, but, unlike the burka and niqab, it does not cover the entire face; a person’s facial features are still revealed. The burkini is not as loose as the burka and niqab too. It just looks like a normal full-sleeved shirt and long trousers, something you would wear during autumn.
If Europe truly is for freedom, banning the burkini which a woman chooses to wear would be hypocritical. How is that nuns are allowed to cover their hair and wear loose garments, but if Muslim women do the same it is considered oppression? Of course, the Middle East has a notorious history of denying women rights, but these women choose to wear a burkini and if we deny them their right to wear what they want, we are no different from the men who oppress them. It would be repeating history: decisions made by men to govern women. Europe is far from that today: it stands freedom and equality.
The ban has left a strong impression on the French and the rest of Europe. Is it worth to ban a swimming costume that has advantages to not only Muslim women but to other women too? We might pretend to be oblivious of the advantages the burkini has to shield this veiled discrimination.
I am pro-burkini, are you?