As is usually the case in France, any time anything happens where Muslims could even remotely be involved, it becomes a media circus – any time is a good time to talk about how “Muslims want it their way” or how “Muslims don’t want to integrate.”
Last week, a 21 year old woman in a public park in the city of Reims was apparently assaulted by Muslim women for wearing a bikini in public. Several news outlets picked up on the story, including my personal favorite, the Daily Mail (whether that is news is up for debate), with the tantalizing headline “’Muslim Girl Gang’ attacks ‘immoral’ sunbather for wearing a bikini in a public park” – although later on in the same article they quote the local police superintendent saying that the attack does not appear to be religiously motivated. In their defense, at least they put “Muslim Girl Gang” and “immoral” in quotes. The Union de Reims newspaper called it an “aggression with a hint of religious police.” The paper then sort of retracted, with an article on the 28th entitled “Bikinigate: decoding a media circus.” The extent of the reaction is described in this passage from the Daily Mail:
“Protesters wearing bikinis and swimsuits held a rally at the park, in the northern city of Reims, yesterday despite rain and cold winds.Hundreds across France joined the campaign on Twitter, posting photos of themselves wearing swimsuits in public places.
Spectators have likened the campaign to the JeSuisCharlie Twitter campaign, following the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris in January.”
One of the girls accused of the assault took to social media to plead her case, and her argument was that it had nothing to do with religion, but rather an insult to her friend. She stated that while her friend did in fact say something to the effect of “It isn’t summer, it isn’t time to tan, don’t get out your bathing suit” the victim of bikini gate, Angelique Sloss, responded “given what your body looks like, I understand why you don’t want to wear a bathing suit.” Some reports have questioned the victim’s version of events – according to the French Huffington Post, her injuries amounted to three days off of work and not ten as she claimed. Either way, the exchange quoted above still points to more of a fight resulting from an exchange of insults than something akin to a French muttawa (religious police).
Yet the media blew up. As someone who is interested in social media and who lived in France for many years, I find it interesting that people were so quick to conclude that obviously people who have a problem with bikinis in public parks must have been fundie Muslims. SOS-Racisme, one of the leading anti-racist organisations in France, first bought into the idea that it was Muslim-oriented, before finally admitting that they got caught up in the precipitation of the event as relayed by the Union newspaper in Reims. In fact, one of the members of the editorial coordination team at SOS-Racisme is no longer on the list of people who work for the organization due to the conculsions made simply from the ethnic origin of the “aggressors.”
It is getting old, y’all. I feel like Muslims can’t win no matter what we do. Even when Islam isn’t involved, we are somehow still at fault. While the mea culpa of the media was widely disseminated after the police confirmed that there was no religious motivation to the incident, the lingering odor, or the “relents de la police religieuse” as it was described in the Union de Reims, still remains.
I agree with a lot of your articles on France, Nicole. This is not one of them. Your re-evaluation of events, based substantially on the defence of a girl who collectively beat someone to be unable to go to work for several days (which is still a lot), also says the group of Muslimahs started an argument with the girl over her wearing a bikini. A clothing choice the girls by their own words of defence disagreed with. It is quite irrelevant whether the girl in the bikini was rude in her response, it is a reaction to a transgression against her clothing choice (“get dressed” as to Le Monde isn’t so subtle either). Bodyshaming isn’t nice, either way. And the group of girls started it.
How credible is it they disagreed with her clothing choice for reasons other than morality? The beating might in their depiction of events not have been because of the bikini. But their starting the entire argument baselessly was. Also the perpetrator’s defence needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as always.
Finally, the police saying the aggression has no confirmed religious component is a – necessary – strategy of calming the waves. Used even by US in the wake of the Chattanooga assault. A way of trying to prevent further harm by responsible authorities, nothing more. Whether or not the reader agrees with that is up to them. I am convinced these girls sought trouble in a twisted understanding of being entitled to shame others for too little clothing in public. This hysteria is for once not driven by islamophobia, but was fuelled by silly and transgressing girls.
I’d actually approve of this setting a precedent – stay out of everybody else’s business what to wear. For both sides.
“Some reports have questioned the victim’s version of events – according to the French Huffington Post, her injuries amounted to three days off of work and not ten as she claimed.”
By the way, I believe you mixed up the facts from the Huff Post article here. The charged aggressor said online how could the victim have had injuries amounting to three days off work, when she herself had ten days (off work from injuries). Authorities have commented Nesreen (the charged aggressor) had had not ten, but three days herself. At least I understand the article in this sense.