[guest post by Dana]
France, on defense after having been the target of recent radical Islamic terror attacks, has seen an increasing numbers of towns impose a ban on wearing burkinis on public beaches.
In Cannes, Mayor David Lisnard justified his city’s ordinance, noting that any “beach dress that ostentatiously shows a religious affiliation” was not acceptable given the Islamic State’s focus on France. Further, officials are saying that this is also in the interest of defending the secularism of France.
This week, the lower courts in Nice ruled that the ban on the burkini in the town of Villeneuve-Loubet “was ‘necessary, appropriate and proportionate’ to prevent public disorder.”
Ironically, the court also essentially decided that a Muslim woman adhering to her religion’s call for modesty by wearing a burkini, might actually offend the religious beliefs of others:
[T]he burkini was “liable to offend the religious convictions or [religious] non-convictions of other users of the beach” as well as “be felt as a defiance or a provocation exacerbating tensions felt by” the community.
There was, of course, no mention that wearing a burkini might be a political statement as much as a statement of modesty…
Earlier this week, it was reported that on the same beach where last month’s horrific terrorist attack took place during Bastille Day celebrations, four armed police officers confronted a middle-aged woman wearing a burkini, and demanded she remove the offending garment or face a fine:
(photo via the Guardian)
The woman complied.
Reactions to the burkini ban, and to this latest act of enforcement, varied:
The banning of the burkini in France, by the Administrative Tribunal in Nice, has been challenged by two human rights groups.
They argued that the ban on a garment that does not cover the face was petty, and designed to spread hatred against a small group of mainly Muslim mothers and grandmothers.
[C]ritics point out that 30 Muslims died in the Nice attack, including women wearing traditional clothes, including headscarves.
They point out how the French authorities are meant to support free expression, including the right to offend and provoke, and say that the burkini ban is utterly hypocritical.
Echoing Olivier Dartigolles, spokesman of the French Communist Party, Sara Silvestri, a professor studying religion, claims the ban plays into the hands of terrorist groups:
“The effect of these laws is that Muslims feel marginalized and in turn, the feeling of being unwelcome impacts their ability and willingness to integrate into society, can cause withdrawal and lead to engagement with radical groups.”
The Guardian put it this way:
The burkini row may seem banal, and to some a surreal inversion of laws in Islamic countries, but it has become yet another flame in the murderous tinderbox of Islamism in France, invoking issues of control over the body, religious freedom, racism, provocation, terrorism, Islam and Islamophobia, republicanism and what the French call laïcité. Lïïcité is the hardest for people outside France to understand: our words “laity” and “secularism” fail to express the depth of allergy to all things theocratic, which is endemic to French societal fabric since the revolution.
However, the most outrageous reaction to the incident on the beach has to be the deputy mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi’s threat to sue any citizens who post photos of police confrontations (like the one in the post) on social media:
Christian Estrosi … has published a press release by the city of Nice, to announce that he would file a complaint against those who would broadcast pictures of municipal police verbalize women guilty of exercising what they believed to be their freedom to dress from head to feet on the beaches.
“Photos showing municipal police of Nice in the exercise of their functions have been circulating this morning on social networks and raise defamation and threats against these agents ,” the statement said.
In light of ISIS, the increasing numbers of radicalized Muslims in France, and the barbaric acts of terror happening inside its borders, one can understand the country’s inclination to get out the ban hammer. Do something. Anything. Stop any kind of political statement or perceived visual endorsement of a religion directly linked to terrorism. But also, given that there are Muslim regions of the world whose governments force women to hide their offensive bodies under burkas and burkinis, it’s ironic that a country like France, which claims to pride itself on freedom, is also using the power of the state to tell women how to dress. And in some cases, those women are also French citizens.