Thursday, 1 September 2016

The burkini controversy

There has been a lot of adverse comment in the British media about the decision of some French municipalities to ban the wearing of burkinis on their beaches. The burkini is an inelegant garment resembling a wet suit with hood that is worn only by Muslim women, and which allows them to swim whilst at the same time covering their bodies completely, so that they can retain their 'modesty'. The overwhelming response of British media pundits has been hostile to this ban, but a majority of the French public support it. The ban was imposed following the Islamic terrorists attacks in Paris and Nice, and is seen by many as an expression of religious fundamentalism that challenges the country's secular values. So who is right, is this ban an example of men telling women what they can and cannot wear, or is this garment a visible symbol of a dark ages superstition which wilfully challenges liberal and secular advancement.

The controversy is a good example of the conflict between the rights of individuals to make their own choices and the need for society as a whole to maintain cohesion. There is no doubt that the burkini is an affront to present day western values as it stigmatises women's bodies as morally 'indecent' and thus unfit for public display. It should be remembered that the burkini is not too dissimilar to the voluminous swimwear worn by women a century ago in Britain. In both cases the justification for this obsession with extreme female 'modesty' was to appease religious sensitivities. Most people in western society can now see that this outlook was nothing more than an irrational superstition, and that women's bodies at their best can be aesthetically very pleasing, and even when they may not be, they are still completely harmless.

France, like Britain, has sleepwalked into the calamitous folly of allowing millions of immigrants into their countries whose first loyalty is to their religious indoctrination. Many in these separated communities are inherently hostile to modern western values. As we have seen in recent times some of their more zealous members feel sufficiently motivated to murder and main their fellow citizens in pursuit of their faith's dogma. So it is not difficult to understand why many French people do not particularly wish to be reminded of the superstitious symbols of this violent religious primitivism when visiting their beaches.

So the French ban is not an attempt by the state to tell women what they must wear. Instead it is to draw a line, and send out a clear signal, that the secular values of their society will be upheld and that there will be no surrender to primitive religious superstition. This does undoubtedly infringe individual choice, but it should be remembered that the only people wearing this impractical and gross beachwear are Muslim women who, since a very early age, would have been indoctrinated by upholders of their faith into believing that excessive and absurd notions of 'modesty' are somehow virtuous.

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