The French government has supported the decision by three Mediterranean towns to ban the burkini, a full-body swimsuit designed for Muslim women.
Supporters of the ban encouraged the Le Touquet resort on the Atlantic coast to prohibit the burkini on its beaches after Cannes, Villeneuve-Loubet and Sisco on the island of Corsica banned it.
Mayors who issued the ordinance have provided a plethora of reasons behind the ban, ranging from security to hygiene. The widely cited rationale, however, is the one concerning coercion of women.
For instance, Dominique Bucci, deputy mayor of Les Pennes-Mirabea, a Marseille suburb where Muslim women planned to hold a burkini party at a water park, said the special beachwear endangers equality between men and women and feminism as well as "tramples" on secular values.
However, many commentators, Muslims and non-Muslims, have called out this excuse as nonsense, and rightfully so.
Manuel Valls says that #burkini is 'not compatible' with French values. I guess a woman's right to choose what to wear is not one of them.— Alida Casetta (@alastegu) August 17, 2016
And they’re right. How different, exactly, is this decree from the one that bars Iranian women from taking off the headscarf in public?
Unlike the niqab — the full-face Muslim veil for women — the burkini doesn’t create problems in identifying a person so the excuse pertaining to security is absolutely nonsensical.
As far as hygiene is concerned, the burkini can be kept as clean as a full-body wet suit or even a bikini for that matter:
This recently enacted French burkini ban is so idiotic pic.twitter.com/TfhwCYix9x— Shahed Amanullah (@shahed) August 15, 2016
Here’s what the mayors opposing the burkini don’t understand: By telling a woman that her selection of a particular dress is not legal, the French government is essentially coercing (a lot of) women into doing something they don’t want to do — and isn’t that exactly what the authorities are claiming to fight via their burkini ban: the coercion of women?
The irony is unmistakable.