Sunday, September 11, 2016

Thoughts on the Burkini

As usual, some strange problem on liberty has risen in France, a country that seems obsessed with legislating what it means to be free. The problem this time is a ban on a French beach of the 'burkini' - a burkha that you can swim in, yet keep yourself fully covered. This rather odd contraption comes from an innovator in Australia, and it certainly has a market. That is not the problem.

Now, it is easy to dismiss the ban as typical Islamophobia, but that would not just be lazy, but also dismiss the very real ISIS-inspired and -sponsored terrorist attacks that France has faced recently. And then, there is the issue of women in countless Islamic nations being forced to cover up... or else. Recently, some men in Iran donned burkhas as a mark of protest against the morality police there. Therefore, even as Islamic socialists in the West insist that the burkha is somehow a sign of freedom (using the most twisted logic that only Marxists that conjure), it should be remembered that for hundreds of millions of women across the world, it is a sign of repression.

And yet, there is the question of whether, in principle, banning the burkha isn't just as bad as making it mandatory. Of course, this has been solved previously on the issue of security and safety (old Hindi movies do have plenty of instances of the 'bad guy' getting away in a burkha), but the burkini is not a full-face covering veil - you can identify the person. It could even be construed as a nice way to keep your hair from getting wet!

This is not going to be an easy question. Without safety and security, there really is no justification for a woman being forced to not wear a burkini, even if it seems totally illogical, even stupid, to willingly participate in a ritual that treats women as a commodity. Perhaps, the proper way would be for the State to stay away from legislating on it, and for people to make it very clear that they do not believe that women need to cover up to be safe. While there is no fair legislative answer to the problem of the burkini, there is and must be a social response to the burkha itself. 

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