In my opinion, given how I perceive swimsuits, it's extremely unfair and sexist to require women to dress in such attire. The choice to wear a burqini, or long swim shorts, or such swim attire should be equal rather than either banned or inferior among choices in a pluralistic society. The only conditions should be floatability, safety, and hygiene. Aesthetic considerations for women's swimsuits are anti-feminist, and Muslim women shouldn't be the only ones in this fight. In my personal experience, Muslim women are not the only women (or men) who would like some latitude, please, in their choices of swim (and other) attire. Not all people like to share the shape or sight of their bodies with others, particularly strangers, and certainly in this age of freaks, psychopaths, and weirdos. Many women would like the freedom to not shave their legs or to go bald. You may not like it, but you can't pass laws or rules against their use of public spaces.

This is what Western democracy and pluralism is all about. There are choices you can make about who to be, and how. As long as those choices do not harm others around you, one choice should be equal to another. Whether I keep my maiden name or change it, whether I wear pants or a skirt, whether I live with my parents or by myself, whether I ride a motorcycle or drive a car, I should not have to suffer consequences that affect my health and liberty. There are a range of choices we may have in every area of life, and all of the choices that cause no social damage should be equally available to us.

But the burqini is dangerous. It is a germ. It might spread. It is a visual sign of the disease -- Islam -- that right-wingers wish to eliminate from the body politic. It is not an accepted form of minority religion that keeps its head down and tries to look nonchalant. It is a little too loud-mouthed in its visual message. How, then, may it be tolerated in public spaces?

As the local expert on Islam, of course, the local mayor Alain Kelyor sagely reminded the giddy Muslim women who have only been doing Islam for decades that the burqini was not "an Islamic swimsuit." As he says, "that type of suit does not exist in the Koran." Of course it would be quibbling to ask whether bikinis were mentioned in the New Testament and if saris were explicitly required in the Bhagavadgita.

Everyone knows how the Qur'an and its rules on clothing work.

The mayor concluded that "all this" -- as in the hoopla, the humiliation, the restrictions upon Muslim women's physical exercise and use of public space -- "has nothing to do with Islam." Indeed.

 

This article was first published at ReligionDispatches, one of our Partner sites, and is reprinted with permission.

Shabana Mir is an Assistant Professor in Social Foundations and Qualitative Research at Oklahoma State University. She has her Ph.D. in Education Policy Studies and Anthropology from Indiana University, Bloomington. She blogs at Koonj.