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What is a Burkini? Why Are French Towns Banning Them?

August 19, 2016
Plain English Version
On the left a bikini, on the right a birkini. Photo credit: AFP/Fethi Belaid

On the left a bikini, on the right a birkini. Photo credit: AFP/Fethi Belaid

In America, most uniform services have dress codes. But for the most part, what you wear does not matter. Americans tend to accept religious garb as within the rights of the individual.

France is different. In France, there is a line between society and religion. Clothing may be a religious symbol. Currently, the one symbol with the most attention is the burkini.

And what is a burkini? A burkini is a modest bathing suit worn by Muslim women for social and religious reasons. It covers the wearer’s body and the head.

A feminist said the burkini is a sign of “enslavement” meant to hide the women’s bodies. Some have said burkinis reflect the oppression of Muslim women.

For others, the burkini is a step forward. One person said the burkini is “good news in a way. It means Muslim women who could not enjoy a day at the beach are now taking part. They are socializing.”

Social traditions of France are part of the story. Concerns about terrorism are another. In 2004, France passed a law banning the wearing of religious symbols in schools. In 2015, France enacted a law that said people could not wear clothing that hides the face. The stated reason was public safety. The terror attacks in France have increased these concerns.  Many on the right have a different reason. Burkini’s are a threat to French order. It has become harder to be a Muslim in France.

Now some French Towns have said it is not proper to wear burkinis to the beach. Even though they sometimes have trouble finding somebody wearing one. They have enacted bans on burkinis. It is not clear if courts will uphold the bans.

 It is now a heated political debate.

Source: The New York Times August 17, 2016 

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