On Friday it was announced that the Mayor of Cannes has banned the wearing of Burkinis at the beach in Cannes and thinking about that, I discovered a sizeable conflict in my and maybe your thinking!
I should start with an explanation, Burkinis look like a long-sleeved pyjama and they also have a form of hoodie that covers the head, but does not cover the face. In that respect they differ from Burkas (despite the similar name), which are more like a gown and also cover the face. The head part of a Burkini is more like that of a Hijab. And if all that confuses you, check out this head gear comparison here (with pictures).
Now back to the conflict that I mentioned above. The Cannes Mayor reasoned the ban with “risks of disrupting public order”, which I really don’t get and think is quite far fetched, but my concern is a different one:
I am all for Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion. So (as long as I don’t harm anybody else!!) nobody should be told what they are allowed to believe and what not and everybody should be allowed to express their own opinion (as long as they don’t invite others to harm anybody). To “Freedom of Expression” belongs the freedom to wear whatever clothes I want to wear. With that in mind, muslim women should be allowed to wear Burkinis on the beach if they want to do that.
But there is a flipside! Religions and rules about clothing based on your religion is usually man made nonsense and I am strictly against the oppression of women that is practised in nearly all religions and is particularly strong in Islam. And being against oppression, I think the oppressors should not get away with their ridiculous rules and we as a open and tolerant society should stop or at least hinder them from oppressing women.
Can you see the conflict? On one hand, I think women should be allowed to wear what they want, because these clothes rules is only a means to oppress them. So ban Burkas and Hijabs and Burkinis etc. But tolerance means that the woman who WANTS to wear it should be allowed. How can we assess is SHE really wants to wear it or if she obliges because of the threats by her religious leaders?
I know at least one girl who absolutely wanted to wear a Hijab, because she felt it was showing the appropriate respect to her god. And I also know muslim women who have told me that NOT wearing clothes that cover all bit of skins will expose you to such an imitating lecherous attitude in their countries that they happily wear clothes that are covering as much as possible. Sure they would like to change the attitude of the men in their world, but they don’t see that as feasible in the short term.
So, what should we do? Band the Burkini to help or allow the Burkini to be tolerant and accepting?
I know we are not in Cannes (and we don’t have a proper beach), but it is a problem that is already relevant in our society regarding Burkas and Hijabs and Niqabs.