The Wardrobe Wars: Bikinis and Garbage Bags

It seems as though the civilizational warfare as manifested by our differing wardrobes has had two recent battles involving the Brits, burqas, and bikinis.

About a week ago, a British woman in a Dubai shopping mall, allegedly wearing a shirt which seemed to reveal too much in relation to boobage and leggage, was scolded by a passing Emirati woman who felt the Brit’s clothing violated the modesty dress code, put up by mall authorities in respect to the country’s Islamic identity and ethos (which, fortunately, do not affect the Emirate’s use of slave labor for its self-glorification).

The British woman responded to the Emirati woman’s complaints by stripping down to her bikini. So much for “keep calm and carry on.” Both women ended up getting up in each others’ grills and mall authorities proceeded to detain both women. The Emirati woman then filed a complaint against the British woman, who was arrested by authorities for public indecency.

The response, albeit brief and minimal, has been unsurprising. For some, breaking the dress code social norm is heralded as a striking achievement for all of female kind, while for others it has begged the question: why was she wearing a bikini under her clothes?

Around the same time, New Atheist G-d Richard Dawkins decides to compare the burqa to a “bin liner.”

For those of you North Americans unversed in English, he means a garbage bag.

In an interview with the Radio Times, the 69-year-old author and evolutionary biologist reportedly said he is filled with “visceral revulsion” when he sees Muslim women wearing the traditional, face-covering Islamic veils.

Yet Dawkins, well known as a prominent defender of atheism, stopped short of advocating a burqa ban. “As a liberal, I would hesitate to propose a blanket ban on any style of dress because of the implications of individual liberty and freedom of choice,” he told the Daily Mail after making his initial remarks.

Truly a beacon of tolerance.

The two aforementioned incidents don’t necessarily deserve any real attention and consideration in and of themselves. While the former has garnered much attention from Britons and the international media alike, it’s not something completely out of the ordinary. People will, once in awhile, scold (or compliment or ridicule) others for what they are wearing, whatever it is. Whether it’s a hijab, niqab or a skirt just barely holding on to the contours of one’s buttocks, someone’s gonna say something to your face or behind your back.

Additionally, if you “indecently expose” (however defined) yourself in any country, you’ll most likely get in trouble for that. I surely could never walk around an Eaton Center in Vancouver wearing a bikini. As normal as a bikini is in North American culture (at least when gracing the beach and magazine covers), even here one would be subjected to some sort of legal repercussions if someone were to file a complaint. So, it’s really not a huge deal.

Then there is Dawkins’ comment. Really?  Are we really surprised that someone who has made it his life’s goal to prove the universal idiocy and hateful nature of all faith-based peoples alike would say something so intolerant?


This isn’t news. But because the Clash of Civilizations theory (damn you, Huntington, damn you!) is always present in between the headlines of such stories, these rather mundane occurrences become sensational tales of the ever-growing tensions between the Moozlimz and the bikini-loving Westerner. Any outrage over either of these events speaks volumes about our priorities as individuals and as a collective—whatever that collective may represent.

  • Andrew

    For the record, the bikini incident – while setting twitter on fire, didn’t actually happen.

    Yes there was an expat woman who was approached by a Abaya clad woman.
    Yes the Abaya clad woman gave her a mouthful, I think the term used, at high volume was “RESPECT!”. Repeatedly.

    At no point did the person being screamed at strip down to a bikini.

    Didn’t happen.

    CC TV was used to clarify the actions of both parties.

    It was also suggested that the expat woman had nothing to answer for.

    I wonder therefore in the interests of peoples rights – whether the person involved in filing the complaint has been charged with anything involving improper accusations.

    Probably not.

    I understand that there would be some frustration regarding the behaviour of some expats in the UAE, but using this particular (and innocent) expat as a cat to kick doesn’t fit into any religious dogma that I am aware of.


    I tried reading the G-d delusion. I gave up. Felt like a whole new sermon… he is in the business to sell books – unfortunately his marketing program is harmful to many, but any time spent in denouncing his views only puts more wind in his sails.

    Ramadam Kareem.

    • Fatemeh

      @Andrew: Can you provide a link to support your comment that the bikini thing didn’t happen?

  • Andrew

    *ramadan kareem



  • Coffee Catholic

    Why would anyone strip down in a mall? That is just plain WEIRD regardless of modesty!! And this bikini woman obviously needs to grow up. A lot.

  • M. Lynx Qualey

    One might also mention that the Telegraph article you link to is a bit baffling, referring as it does to an “Arabic woman” who scolded the bikini wearer, and to the Emirates as one of the more lenient among the Arab states (among which Arab states? certainly malls in Cairo don’t have signs requesting female modesty, and I doubt they do in Beirut, either).

    But, well, what does “lenient” mean in this context?

  • Rani

    lol…During ‘Ramadam’ we must ‘give a damm’ a bit sidetracked.

    Just to throw in my 2 much rather see 2 eyes peering from behind a crack opposed to 2 cracks.

  • Tec15

    Dawkins is an unrepentant and moronic Islamophobe, so his remarks are not surprising.

    “I think it is well arguable that Islam is the greatest man-made force for evil in the world today. Pat Condell is one of the few with the courage to say so.”

    Watch out for some of his online fanboy posse to show up though. They cant stand hearing their lord criticized.

  • Macie

    Why is it any of the Emirati woman’s business what the other one was wearing???

    In my opinion, the Muslim woman was at fault and she provoked an unnecessary incident.

    The Muslim woman should also have been arrested, for harrassment.

  • Andrew


    Leave it to me.

  • Andrew
    • Fatemeh

      @ Andrew: Thank you so much! I’m going to Twitter this now! I know it’s The Sun, which isn’t the most objective or reliable source, but her direct quote is good enough for me.

  • Umar Khan

    I think that if the Muslim world wants wearing the veil/abayah/niqaab, to be accepted and tolerated in Western societies, then it has to tolerate Western dressing habits and standards as well. It isn’t fair for Muslim countries and societies to complain about discrimination against Muslim dress, yet openly discriminate against Western dress.

    Bottom line, in my opinion:

    if you want respect or at least tolerance, you have to give it too.

  • Andrew

    I know… “The Sun” – not what you’d call a paragon of the news industry… nonetheless.

    Here’s another reference.

    From an anecdotal point of view – Having lived here in the UAE for almost 2 years now (Abu Dhabi) from what I have seen, If someone were walking through a mall in a bikini, she would most likely be stopped and told to dress more appropriately and probably taken somewhere out of the view of the public until the issue could be resolved.

    On the other hand if she were to ACTIVELY remove her clothing in a public place, particularly in order to offend a local woman, there is no way on EARTH the charges would have been dropped.

    People have been deported for far less. Yes, deported.

    This is not a criticism of the laws here, it just is what it is.

    My point for all of this is to make sure that this incident isn’t used as a beacon for everything that is wrong with people who should dress more appropriately.

    Yes it’s a Muslim country. Yes people occasionally dress (even in my VERY broad minded opinion) inappropriately, but on this occasion there was no protest made by anyone, except what turns out to be an exaggeration by one person in order to prove a point.

    If the only thing on offer here was a reprimand, no big deal – but if this expat had been found guilty, she would have had at least jail, and possible deportation.

    Either event would have profoundly affected her life.

  • Melinda

    Good post. Ugh, I can’t stand Dawkins.

  • Ida Bakar

    Dawkins,hmmm… I think he is a good biologist and evolution scientist, so he should stick with those. In his book the G-d Delusion he confined his rant to the Christian faith because he said that he does not know enough about other faiths (or words to that effect). So what business of his to comment on the face-veil debate?

    He also wants to bring ‘his science’ to the muslim world. He should try not to alienate his audience.

  • brandon

    In countries that are free its understandable to wear bikinis under your clothes or under revealing clothes but rules are rules there put there for a reason, it was not the womans place to enforce anything she should have kept her mouth shut and kept going it would have saved time and hassle.