As a joke my friend sent me the picture below whilst I was scrolling through the depressingly limited search results for modest swimwear.
Credit: NYDaily news
This is not fancy dress. It is a very common practise in China to cover up entirely while enjoying a day at the beach. The piece of material covering the face has been humorously coined as a 'face-kini' and while it may seem ridiculous the 'face-kini' is an acceptable form of attire in China to protect your face from the sun's evil cancer-filled rays.
My friend and I laughed at the pictures and soon moved on to choosing an outfit that was the least hideous style for me to wear while shark-swimming with my family in Bali. Yep, that's right, a hijabi... swimming with sharks... #livingdangerously #integrating ... with sharks?
As a Muslim, who considers modesty to be a part of her daily fashion choices, the burkini ban has both perplexed and angered me. I won't mention issues that I have seen covered -no pun intended- such as Islamophobia, the saviour complex etc.
I have noticed a lot of people have taken to sharing images of nuns enjoying themselves in full habit at the beach descrying France for its double standards.
Credit: Guardian UK
Although this is a very pertinent point, it can be explained away by those who wish to because, well, there are no nuns in ISIS. What's that?... You don't understand the link between modest beach wear and Daesh? Me neither, but apparently it's a thing and hence the ban.
But, in all seriousness, I am interested to see how widely the ban is enforced. Photos have circulated on social media of a women being aggressively prompted by armed policemen to remove a long-sleeved top on a beach in Nice this week. I'm curious to see if this will happen to all women in long sleeve attire at the beach or just 'brown', Muslim-looking ladies.
How awesome would it be if Nigella jumped on a plane over to Nice with her black burkini just to test it out?
Credit: Daily Mail
A £32 fine won't dent her income too much but it will help either put to rest, or confirm, the cynical thoughts a lot of the Muslim world are having watching this story unfold.
Women, who cover on the beach for reasons other than faith, have also come forward to share their disgust at the ban. I spoke to Elspeth, a lady of ginger persuasion, who explained that she and her children are always fully covered at the beach because their skin burns very easily. This is a photo of Elspeth and her baby daughter, both in full-length clothing, enjoying a day at the beach. Her daughter had been wearing a hat which was removed to take the photo.
Credit: Photo owner
Elspeth went on to share that she is descended from Holocaust survivors and said:
Not long ago, my people were labelled dangerous and given yellow stars to wear. It seems the French now want to label Muslim women as dangerous and give them bikinis.
Elspeth explained that now she is aware of burkinis she would consider buying one. The ban, however, has made her question whether she would holiday in France at all. Elspeth and her family are not alone in considering the burkini a valid beach wear choice. Since this story has made the headlines burkini retailers claim their sales have soared!
Ultimately, the ban is not about Muslims or terrorism but yet another example of good ole'-fashioned Orientalism. Zinab Sedira is a French-Algerian artist who has explored the concept of the veil (hijab) in her work. In an article entitled Mapping the Illusive she said that:
This is essentially what the ban is about and it should make every feminist bone in your body seethe with anger: We cover our bodies -> Men don't like the fact that we choose not to show them our bodies -> Men try to force us to uncover.
The Muslim woman's body is central to orientalist imagery as a voyeuristic site of Otherness and difference.
Whether you agree with the concept of hijab, burkinis, or modest wear in general is beside the point. Every woman should be allowed to consent to reveal or cover her own body. Her choice. Not an armed police guard and not a town Mayor's.
I've seen a few comments complaining that the opposite is true when visiting a Muslim/ Arab country. If you use the search term 'dubai beaches' in Google Images you'll find many examples of pasty-faced holidaymakers in their budgie smugglers and bikinis but don't say I didn't warn you! And I'm talking about Dubai. In the United Arab Emirates. The country next to Saudi Arabia.
Having used the 'S word' I'd be remiss if I did not mention the fact that in some parts of the world modest wear is obligatory. This is something that definitely needs addressing but, as my Nan always says, "two wrongs don't make a right!"
Should Muslim French nationals or tourists be forced to remove their modest wear just because they would be forced to wear it in another part of the world?
French is not my native tongue but that sounds awfully contradictory to the country's motto emblazoned on public buildings and schools: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite (translated as Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood).
This ban represents the notion that a supposed liberated, forward-thinking, Western country has the right to remove a consenting adult's choice of what to wear.
That's not a Muslim problem. That's everyone's problem.