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.
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.