I heard a fascinating interview on the BBC with the deputy mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, about the resort town’s decision to ban the burkini, the full-body Islamic swimsuit. He explained that “hiding the face or wearing a full-body costume to go to the beach is not in keeping with our ideal of social relations” and was “founded on the subjugation and enslavement of women”.
The Nice ban refers specifically to July’s Bastille Day truck attack in the city that claimed 86 lives, and the murder 12 days later of a Catholic priest near the northern city of Rouen. The day after the Normandy church attack, wanting to react to issues of terrorism, security and the place of Islam in French society, the mayor of the French Riviera town of Cannes decided to ban burkinis from public beaches. Speaking in the name of public order and French secularism the ban criticized “ostentatious clothing which refers to an allegiance to terrorist movements which are at war with us”.
At the heart of the burkini row is the French principle of secularism, the strict separation of church and state to foster equality for all private beliefs. The state’s goal is to be neutral in terms of religion and allow everyone the freedom to practice their faith as long as there is no threat to public order.
On one hand it’s too bad the only way to fight terrorists is to expose the women. On the other maybe it’s a way to help liberate these women from their own oppression. What I can say is I was quite intrigued with the deputy major of Nice and interested to understand the thinking that seeks retaliation through liberation.