Summer is almost coming to an end but the hysteria and fixation surrounding Muslim women's attire is set to persist until the end of time. By now, there have already been thousands of tweets, Facebook posts and many articles on the debacle that unfolded on a Nice beach earlier this week, where armed police men surrounded a Muslim women and coerced her into forfeiting her right to feel comfortable in public. This Muslim beachgoer's attire presented such a threat to the French state that she was made to undress in the presence of hundreds of other sunbathers whilst her daughter wept, clearly frightened and intimidated by France's intolerance presented in the form of baton and pepper spray holding police men.
A bit of background information to enlighten readers about the frenzy surrounding the full-body swimsuit. Fifteen towns in France have banned this piece of clothing known as the "burkini" citing public order and security concerns, as it is believed that "beach attire that ostentatiously displays a religious affiliation whilst France and places of worship are the target of terrorist acts is likely to create risks to public order." Does this mean wetsuits will also become forbidden as many have alluded to the fact that the "burkini" is really not that dissimilar to it? To also throw another spanner in the works the "burkini" is essentially a long-sleeve shirt, leggings/trousers and a head covering made out of the material a wetsuit is made from, now I very much doubt the Mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard will call for French citizens to forgo their entire wardrobe now would he?
Everyone who truly espouses and advocates liberty, freedom of choice and self-determination has exhibited their fury at the image of the "burkini" police chastening the Muslim woman who dared to go sunbathe in the beach. Most have articulated the view that French authorities have illustrated their disregard for the values they so proudly laud themselves for. How is forcing a women to undress in public in line with French and western values of democracy and freedom of expression?
However there are two elements that have irked me most in the aftermath of the ban and since those nefarious images emerged online. They've been seldom alluded to in this ongoing flurry of "to dress or not to dress".
The deafening silence of white and French feminists brings into question their earnestness to advance and campaign for the rights of all women. Where are all those feminists who are amongst the first to take their clothes off in protest when brown men tell women how to dress. I was expecting French feminists to take to the beaches in "burkinis" and declare to the authorities that the patrolling and criminalising of a woman's body will not be tolerated in a "liberal" society. Why is it considered liberation when white men impose their chauvinism on women and oppression when the former do so? The duplicity is scandalous.
My final point and perhaps the most despondent aspect in all this, is stripping a Muslim women of her right to belong and identify with the place in which she resides. Home is where one is allowed to flourish through expressing themselves, this expression gives them a place in society but by denying anyone that right not just women, under the guise of maintaining state security is to tell them they are on the periphery of society, a mere onlooker who by choosing to go for a swim in modest attire is somehow pledging allegiance to a terrorist organisation.
This may seem like a frivolous debate to have amidst ravaging wars across the globe and unprecedented levels of political uncertainty in Britain and across Europe but lets no longer glaze our words with honey and accept that this policing of Muslim women's attire is symptomatic of an entrenched issue France has with Islam, an issue that can only be addressed when France allows Muslims the same emancipation of expression it does to those who publish bigotry under some semblance of freedom of speech. France's defence of its' prejudicial policies, to thwart terror is no longer tenable, it is outright, staring you in the face, discrimination.