No secularist I know supports the burkini ban

No secularist I know supports the burkini ban August 25, 2016

I’m sure you’ve seen the horrendous images of French police, armed with guns, ordering a woman on a French beach to remove her burkini. Justifying the ban, the major of Cannes said the burkini was “improper beachwear” because it was “disrespectful of good morals and secularism”.


Image: Screenshot from Al Jazeera English.
Image: Screenshot from Al Jazeera English.

Already I’ve seen opponents of secularism on Facebook saying “See! This is what secularism leads to”. It is difficult for me to take this particularly seriously, since my feed is otherwise full of secularists decrying the ban. The International Humanist and Ethical Union has issued a statement, “This is not our secularism / Ce n’est pas notre laïcité”.

I find it difficult to see how a burkini ban can even begin to be justified in the name of secularism, since secularism is about religious neutrality, and this ban is patently not that. Has France banned Nuns from going to the beach in their habits? As Kathryn Brightbill pointed out on Twitter (in a thread worth reading), Christian purity culture is packed with groups who do not allow women to wear anything more immodest in public than a floor-length dress and baggy sweater, but they have not been banned from anywhere.

A secular state is one in which the government does not treat any religious view preferentially, so all people are free to follow their religious convictions as they see fit. A burkini ban is exactly the opposite of that.

I’ve kept this short because instead of my witterings on this subject, you need to be reading Hiba Krisht, an ex-Muslim who knows what she’s talking about. She wants us to know that the ban is awful, but that doesn’t mean there are no problems with burkinis, or that we should ignore the fact that many of their wearers don’t have a choice:

I, a woman who was coerced into hijab from prepubescent childhood, for 15 years, wholly and unequivocally condemn the French burkini ban as oppressive and borderline fascist.

I am also disturbed and disheartened by the form that rhetoric condemning the burkini ban is taking in liberal media. It is narrow-sighted, dangerous, and strikes me as especially dissonant …

So. Let’s pretend (lolsob) that I am one of these women directly victimized by the very regressive ideology of modesty being opposed here. I have a bit of freedom being allowed to go to a pool in a burkini by my restrictive and intolerant family and community. And you’re going to ban me from that??? Thereby making it so on top of all my other restrictions I can’t swim too?

Thanks, now I’m more isolated and limited than I was before. ‘Cause you’ve also made sure I can’t go to public school or university in my hijab. Well, I guess I’m confined at home now, because no hijab ban law is going to matter to my family who view hijab as a matter of mortal moral incumbency. So here I am stuck at home, unless my family is able and willing to put me in private schooling. And on top of that more forms of public presence are slowly being restricted from me as well.

But sure, ban me from the public in attempt to champion my rights. That will fix things.

At the same time, she is sick of liberals pretending the Hijab and the bikini are equivalent:

When a woman’s community acceptance, respect, dignity, employability, marriagiability, physical safety, enfranchisement, social mobility, access to social institutions, freedom, and autonomy hinge upon her daily, unwavering, public adherence to the bikini, then we can make this comparison.

When a woman cannot leave her home in anything other than a bikini without being deemed immoral and her human worth and family’s honor compromised, then we can make this comparison.

When there are severe legal, social, and extrajudicial forces holding a woman’s safety, wellbeing, and livelihood hostage to her adherence to the bikini, then we can make this comparison.

Read her whole post here.

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