The prime minister of France, Manuel Valls, said Wednesday that he is in favor of the recent “burkini ban” by a handful of French Riviera resorts because, in his view, all public spaces should be “free of religious influence.”
The “burkini” is the combination of the words “burqa” and “bikini” and looks like a full-body wetsuit, typically catering to Muslim, hijab-wearing women who wish to not show skin or hair while swimming. The swimsuit was recently outlawed by several town mayors in France who pushed the agenda that it represents a form of Islamic militancy, and their decision has been upheld by the federal government.
According to Valls’ interview with La Provence, the hijab-friendly swimsuit represents a “counter-society, political project which is especially based on the enslavement of women” and is incompatible with national values. He made this statement; however, with a perverted perception of Islamic beliefs and continued to push his own anti-Muslim agenda.
Valls explained to La Provence, “There is the idea that [in Islam], by nature, women are immodest, impure, and that they therefore should be totally covered.” His blanket statement is out of touch with the practice of Western Muslims and, like outlawing the burkini, readily applies the harmful Islamophobic belief that all Muslims support terrorism.
In the west, Muslim women, like all women, have the choice to dress as they please, to wear hijab or not. In Islamic practice, women are not forced to dress a particular way, or to cover themselves.
However, through France’s prescription for ameliorating terrorism within its own borders, the government is inadvertently taking away the freedoms of women by exerting control over their bodies. This type of thinking renders that Muslim women in France are automatically outside of the “values of France,” dating back to ancient and colonialist religious divides between Christians and Muslims in the region.
Valls did not, however, state that he supported a nationwide burkini ban because, according to him, “overall regulations on proscribing clothes cannot be a solution.” This argument hypocritically runs counter to the 2010 national ban on wearing burqa and niqab, or veiling one’s face in public.
Banner photo credit: Reuters