The summer swimming season has begun in France with the first salvo fired by France’s “religious” secularists.
The mayor of Lorette, a city south of Lyon in central France, has banned burkinis and hijabs at the city’s new public swimming facility.
This is despite the fact that last year France’s highest administrative court, the State Council, nixed the attempt by close to 30 resorts in southern France to ban
burkinis. The Conseil d’Etat ruled that banning the modest swim attire constituted “a serious and illegal attack on fundamental freedoms.”
Lorette’s Mayor Gerard Tardy also ordered that those using the city’s new facilities must “have decent attire and a correct attitude.”
Besides violating French law and barring any safety issues (which are not associated with burkinis, since they are specifically made for swimming), it is appalling that a government official in France, in the year 2017, not only would deny citizens the freedom of religion, but also dictate what attitudes they may have.
Modesty may not be a value for a French “religious” secularist, but for many women – not just religious Muslims – it is. One can also assume that more than a few men at the French swimming complex do not all have “correct attitudes” when ogling women wearing what Mayor Tardy deems “decent attire,” i.e. bikinis or other revealing swimwear.
Even from a feminist point of view, one can question the mayor’s rules, which can be roughly translated into something like: “Women must purport themselves as sex objects at our city’s swimming pools.”
The mayor’s edict is an attempt to contain Muslim values encroaching on French society, what is known as “creeping sharia,” yet they also smack of sexism.
There are many aspects of creeping sharia to which one may rightly object that involve real human rights violations, including the forced veiling of women and cloaking of women in Islamist societies. Those issues need to be addressed, and women need to be helped to extricate themselves out of those abusive situations.
Yet, forcing women to wear revealing swimwear is not only inappropriate in any circumstance, it is certainly not the place to start to transform Islamist societies into societies that respect the human rights of women.
All French citizens — including Muslim women wearing burkinis — should be able to enjoy France’s swimming facilities.
Aldo Oumouden, spokesman for the Grande Mosque in the nearby city of Saint Etienne, rightly said, “Wanting to ban the veil in this swimming area is an attack on the individual freedom of Muslims. The mayor does not realize that this decision will further increase stigma. It is not only unnecessary but also devastating for community harmony.”
Whether women are wearing modest swim wear out or choice or due to community pressure, banning the burkini will not help their plight but only prevent them from enjoying sun, air and relief from the summer heat.