Burkini-phobia includes us too
What is shocking are divisions among Arabs and Muslims regarding the case
It was neither Islamist extremists who advertised the call to ban the burkini in France, nor men in a traditional and conservative society, but seculars of the French republic. According to Western media reports, these seculars applauded French policemen as they confronted a woman on a beach in Nice and made her remove some of her clothing as part of a controversial ban on the burkini, which she was wearing.
Secular people screaming at a woman to go home resembles what has happened to many Arab and Muslim women who have tried to defy prohibitions in their society in terms of what to wear, but were reprimanded by people and yelled at to go home. In this case, French secularism seemed to target women’s choices.
Media outlets, social media users and many Western figures rejected French mayors’ recent burkini bans, which attack individuals’ freedom of choice, and particularly that of women. They completely contradict the freedoms on which the French republic was established. In any case, the state council decided to protect individual freedoms and suspend the bans.
Secular people screaming at a woman to go home resembles what has happened to many Arab and Muslim women who have tried to defy prohibitions in their society in terms of what to wearDiana Moukalled
Arab, Muslim reaction
However, what is shocking are divisions among Arabs and Muslims regarding the case. Some were thrilled at the opportunity to further demonize the West, while others displayed more secularism than the French decrees! Absurdly, many Arabs said the woman on the beach in Nice should have gone home. Some even asked why she went to the beach to begin with!
These seculars have forgotten that a woman going out and enjoying the beach with people who do not resemble her is an act of interaction with the public outside of her home.
Muslim women in these foreign societies are not all free to go to the beach, so a woman’s presence on the beach in a burkini seemed like a step forward and should have been encouraged, not censured. What is shameful is that condemnation came from seculars who did not find anything wrong with telling women what to wear.
Those supporting the burkini ban said the woman’s acceptance to remove parts of her clothing and stay on the beach proves that she chose to remove the hijab (headscarf). This is wrong, as she was insulted twice by the policemen’s orders.
The first insult is that she was prevented from wearing the burkini. The second is that she was forced to stay on the beach while not wearing it. As to why she did not go home, no one can answer this but her, and we have no right to ask her about her decision.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Aug. 29, 2016.
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.