Recently France has passed a ban on “Burkinis” in the beaches in Southern France. These Burkinis are the full-body coverage swimsuits worn by women practicing Islam or adhering to traditional Sharia Law. Islam and it’s accompanying complications are undoubtedly under fire presently; men and women practicing it and living through its guidance are generally discriminated against and labeled as terrorists, misogynists, evil, etc. Regardless of what your opinion is, whether you condemn their religious behaviors or agree with them, Islam is a legitimate religion that was created in all fairness alongside other religions and is a popular faith that many citizens of our planet practice every single day across the globe. That being said, due to the extremists of the religion Islam has been spoiled and labeled as dangerous and threatening to Western culture. This is true to an extent, as the principles of its practice stand in stark contrast to how Western culture has developed and settled as a way of life centered on economic and moral progression.
Part of this progression is the growing acceptance of freedom of expression especially in gender-based rights and image. For example, in the U.S. it is becoming increasingly okay to be openly transgender or dress however you want, even if it does not adhere to tradition gender norms. Additionally, feminism is in its fourth wave as men and women across the country are taking strides to equalize men and women in all aspects of society as feminism is aligned as an issue that dovetails with other discriminatory factors such as race, economic standing, and sexual orientation. Some of these progressive principles that we see in the culture of the United States are opposed by Islam and Sharia standards, but does that mean that women in Burkinis are wrong to practice their religion? Personally, if a man told me that I needed to be totally covered up on the beach I’d tell him off very quick; that’s just because of who I am and my own personal beliefs and practices. There do exist women that want to comply with these religious practices that Western society may reject, and they should have the freedom to practice it.
The issue that coincides with the Burkini debate is what constitutes oppression in conflict with religious freedom. On the beautiful beaches of the South of France, women of various religions come to the beach to relax, have fun, and enjoy the stunning landscape of French, seaside nature. This tranquility and freedom has recently come under fire as women practicing Islam wear these Burkinis to the beach and are ticketed or fined for their outfit choices. The mayor of a seaside town, Marc Etienne Lansade, defended this ban telling CNN, “You have to behave in the way that people behave in the country that accepted you, and that is it,” as to say their dress conflicts with French norms; but not everyone supports this ban. While France is acting in support of their secular government and keeping controversial religious topics away from the general public, this extreme secularism mirrors the theocratic government of Iran which also sends out armed police patrol to monitor their women and dictate basic personal freedoms, such as what you wear to the beach.
While I certainly disagree with the principles of Islam that dictate women to cover up at all times, as a woman I even more so disagree with the idea of the government policing women’s clothing. I think that France is taking steps backwards and reducing themselves to the theocratic and harsh nature of Iran’s government by outlawing a practice related to religious freedom, and actually steering away from secularism. What do you think? Reach out on social media or leave your thoughts in the comment section below.