French Mayors Just Banned the Burkini. The Country's Islamophobic History Shows Why

The mayor of Cannes in France has banned women from wearing swimsuits that cover too much skin on local public beaches. Targeted specifically are the burkinis, a play on “burqa” and “bikini,” a hijab-friendly wetsuit that is commonly worn in the water by Muslim women who observe the headscarf.

This comes soon after an attack that killed French celebrators on Bastille Day in Nice and nearby its site, on the tourist-friendly French Riviera near the Mediterranean coastline. So far, five French towns have banned the Burkini and three more are considering bans. 

“If a woman goes swimming in a burkini, that could draw a crowd and disrupt public order,” David Lisnard, the mayor of Cannes, told a French newspaper. “It is precisely to protect these women that I took this decision. The burkini is the uniform of extremist Islamism, not of the Muslim religion.”

However, it seems that the ban has more to do with underlying Islamophobia than it does with public safety. Not only is the burkini unaffiliated with Islamic extremism, but the ordinance also states, “Access to beaches and for swimming is banned to anyone who does not have [bathing apparel] which respects good customs and secularism,” suggesting that Lisnard and his supporters believe wearing the a modest headscarf instead of a pseudo underwear and bra is disrespectful to the country’s moral and secular foundation.

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Rather than having the intention to protect the public or the safety of Muslim women—historically, a similar burqa ban in 2010 resulted in an explosion of hate and violent crimes — the legislation means to restrict the exact virtues, secularism and good customs, that it boasts.

Good custom would suggest a tolerance of religion and secularism would allow all people of faith to peacefully express their religion without fear of penalty, rather than allowing religious prejudice taint political discourse.

It is known that France is no stranger to Islamic prejudice and today’s policies are only the tip of an iceberg that is entrenched deep in the Muslim-French divide. The initial expulsion of Muslims from Europe began long before this century, tracing as far back as 732 A.D., when Frankish leader Charles Martel defeated Abdur-rahman and his Umayyad Caliphate in a battle over the Iberian Peninsula, now part of southern France, which was then owned by the Muslims.

Since then, France’s colonization of Algeria and its eager involvement in the Syrian crisis have exacerbated the already fragile relations between the two groups.

Recent “Islamist” attacks, which may be the backlash of France’s increasing ignorant policies and “holier than thou” attitude, have left politicians such as Lisnard unhinged and susceptible to making rash decisions in an attempt to placate its citizens.

What is lost in the process is the awareness that Muslims are not the criminals—if anything, they bear the brunt of both “Islamist” terrorist attacks and the resulting Islamophobic policies that restrict their rights in the name of liberation.

This article was originally published by MuslimGirl and is cross-posted here with their permission.

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by Naaz Modan
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Naaz is a student at Georgetown University studying Government and Journalism. She is a coffee enthusiast with a taste for 19th century novels, a habit of fiddling with cameras, and a knack for writing. Naaz hopes to pursue conflict journalism down the road, travel the world, and one day fix the crumbling earth with what little super glue she has.

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1 Comment Has Been Posted

"It is known that France is

"It is known that France is no stranger to Islamic prejudice and today’s policies are only the tip of an iceberg that is entrenched deep in the Muslim-French divide. The initial expulsion of Muslims from Europe began long before this century, tracing as far back as 732 A.D., when Frankish leader Charles Martel defeated Abdur-rahman and his Umayyad Caliphate in a battle over the Iberian Peninsula, now part of southern France, which was then owned by the Muslims."
...Whoever wrote this needs a serious reality check
1. It is not 'prejudice' to repulse an invading army from your sovereign borders
2. The Caliphate only very recently CONQUERED that area from other peoples and were oppressing them
3. Charlemagne and the Frankish Kingdom HAVE BASICALLY NOTHING seriously to do with modern france's attitudes to Muslims in the 21st Century

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