Freedom to wear a Burqini?

Yes. Who am I to judge another person on what they should be wearing in public space?

When I read online about the Burqini being banned in France, I was instantly interested. Innovation in religious clothing is a good thing. But then I realized that I don’t have so much knowledge on the Islam. And I do get that people are afraid after the recent terrorist attacks in France.

I think that the word ‘distance’ might be key to understanding why the Burqini was banned in the first place. Micallef (The Huffington Post, 2016) wrote an article about the Burqini being banned from public beaches in France. He posed the question if France is right to ban the Burqini from public beaches. He later concludes that the Burqini ban in France is unfounded and that banning it would be misguided, even if some people find the Burqini offensive or even threatening. I agree with him.

The Burqini is suitable swimwear for Muslim women according to the Islamic code of dressing. The Burqini came to existence in 2003 after Aheda Zanetti watched her niece play netball in a traditional Islamic clothing article the Hijab. Watching her niece play netball wearing a hijab inspired Zanetti to develop more suitable sportswear for Muslim women. The Burqini was approved and certified by the Islamic community, empowering girls and women to participate in sports (Burqini Swimwear, 2010).

Globalization and localization
Just by reading the origin from the Burqini I can hardly believe that the Burqini could be anything other than good. Still some people take offence to this religious swimwear. Apart from the recent terrorist attacks in France I also think that the effects of globalization might have something to do with the aversion of the Burqini.
The human race has never before been so interconnected with each other. More and more people migrate for safety, economic or other reasons and many countries are becoming multicultural societies. People with different cultural backgrounds and values are living as neighbours and what used to be the norm is changing (Hermans & Dimaggio, 2007). Not everyone is able to deal with this change. I believe that this is also happing in France. People are uncertain about their new Muslim neighbours and try to hold on to what they know. They feel a desire for things to stay the same. Herman and Dimaggio (2007) add that localization is a counter effect of globalization. Anxiety, fear and uncertainty about how this new multicultural society is going to develop drives people to search for stability and safety in what they know. In- and out-group thinking heightens and the distance between people of different cultural backgrounds grows. Although the physical distance between people of different cultures has been diminishing over the years, the same cannot be said about psychological distance. I think that we’re living next to each other instead of with each other.

Dialogical self
Herman and Dimaggio (2007) also highlight that when a new culture is perceived as threathening, people are motivated to defend their local positions. This self-defence keeps people from growing and developing the dialogical self. The dialogue between people, and their relationships, can only exist when there’s an internal dialogue.

Islamophobia is a good example of a lack of dialogue. People fear the unknown and base their understanding of the other on what they see on the news or hear from their in-group. Politicians build on this fear to gain votes and win elections. But I don’t think that banning Muslim garments would benefit France in the long run. Globalization is happening whether people like it or not. So instead of capitalizing on the fear that this change brings, politicians and mass media should redirect their focus on how to deal with the changing world, form open dialogues and stop criminalizing the Islamic religion.

A Burqini still allows a person to be identified and is therefore not a threat to public safety, as Micallef (The Huffington Post, 2016) states in the article. I believe that the ban of the Burqini is a temporary symptom of our changing world.

The Burqini is innovative and even freedom in my eyes. Everyone should be able to wear what they want. Who am I to judge another person on what they should be wearing in public space? I’m more interested in their story behind what they’re wearing. I also believe that the world will keep on changing and that a time will come that people in Western societies won’t frown upon people wearing Muslim garments: it will become part of what is normal and what is local. The key is, however hard or confronting this may be, to keep the dialogue going.

References
Burqini Swimwear. (2010). The BURQINI ™ / BURKINI ™ Brand Story. Consulted on 19 September 2016, http://www.burqini.com/

Hermans, H. & G. Dimaggio (2007). Self, Identity, and Globalization in Times of Uncertainty: A Dialogical Analysis. Review of General Psychology, 2007, Vol. 11. No. 1, p. 31-61.

Micallef, J.V. (3 September 2016). The Huffington post, Worldpost, Is France Right to Ban the Burkini?. Consulted on 18 September 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-v-micallef/is-france-right-to-ban-th_b_11845732.html

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