Friday, August 14, 2009

Burqini banned from a French pool

The burqini - a swimsuit for Muslim women, designed by a Lebanese-Australian woman and fast becoming a hit throughout the Islamic world - has controversially been banned at public baths in France. A 35-year-old woman wearing one was ordered to leave a Paris swimming pool, apparently because the suit constituted a "hygiene problem".

"The lady was almost fully dressed," a spokesman for the pool said. "The personnel simply applied the rules that are all pools in France ask: wear a bathing suit and take a shower before entering the water."

Whether this is merely stubborn adherence to the existing rules, or part of a broader picture of discrimination against Muslims, it's hard to say. But on face value, it seems silly. Particularly when Olympic swimmers like Ian Thorpe (pictured) virtually wear burqinis anyway.

I have a few family members who observe hijab, and frankly I'm not particularly enthusiastic about the rigid culture of concealment that surrounds it. But hey, that's just me. For the most part you gotta live and let live and apply common sense. And I can't see how women wearing a burqini really has anything to do with anyone else.

I wrote in an earlier post about French President Sarkozy's intention to ban the burqa and niqab (which cover all or most of the woman's face), which I actually think might be a worthwhile idea.

Is it hypocritical of me to support women's right to wear burqinis but not to wear the burqa and niqab? I don't think so. Firstly, I believe to function in society people need to show their face - the burqini allows this, the other two costumes don't. And secondly, its all just a matter of degree. We accept people wearing mini-skirts or short shorts, but we don't accept them traipsing around in nothing but a g-string. So covering most of the body is OK, covering the whole body, perhaps not.

In any case, its hard not to see the burqini controversy as part of a broader cultural conflict in France, which seems to be a very divided country these days. In the age of war and terrorism that we live in, this sort of thing is understandable to an extent, but lets hope the hard heads can meet in the comfortable middle someday.


  1. totally agree with u. i thought the burqa/niqab ban in france could be a good thing aswell, but this is totally different..the "burqini" is merely a more conservative take on a swimsuit. although i dont know all the facts, the ban definately seems to point to bias!

  2. i can understand why you would think that way. However, why is it that we can accept other cultures unconditionally yet when it comes to Islam a thousand different issues are raised over a few metres of fabric.

    you are able to accept the burqini because it shows a person's face but not a veil? Why? The burqini and the veil serve the same purpose. The point to cover a woman's figure. So there is no virtual difference

    p.s we're 14.

  3. Hi Anonymous,
    it is a complicated issue. Just to be clear, I fully support anyone's right to wear hijab, but I'm not in favour of anything that covers the face (niqab or burqa). To me, there are two major problems with face coverings. One, to function fully as a member of a society, you need to show your face, so people can identify and relate to you. Covering the face is all about exclusiveness and separateness. Seondly, I feel that such a measure to keep a woman separate from the wider world smacks of her being a possession of her husband/father. Niqab and burqa are blatant symbols of women's subjugation by men.

  4. I agree with Eurasian Sensation that face veils are symbols of sexism and the oppression of women; but I think that if a woman wants to wear a burqa, she shouldn't be vilified, or treated as weak. I can't imagine how difficult the transition from hiding your face for years, sometimes decades, to then having everyone see you. Spare these women some sympathy.