Why it is wrong for the French to ban the ‘burkini’

Burkinis, like this one from Zoggs, have been banned in parts of France

Burkinis, like this one from Zoggs, have been banned in parts of France

There has been an awful lot of publicity recently about France’s decision to ban the burka. Under the new law, women who hide their faces and husbands who force them to do so can be fined up to £25,000.

Now it seems, however, that the law is being taken even further with reports in the papers last week of women wearing ‘burkinis’ being asked to leave a holiday camp in Southern France.

Regardless of what you think about the decision to ban the burka, there does seem a world of difference between a garment which covers the entire body including the face (a burka if it covers the face completely or a niqab if it leaves the eyes exposed) and the kind of ‘modesty suits’ that are favoured by Muslim women who want to swim.

Indeed, the Zoggs Lynton Modesty suit which we sell on Goggleblog is in many ways more akin to the old fashioned swimsuits favoured by women in the western world until the middle of the twentieth century.

Perhaps the only real difference is that it covers the hair like a bonnet, but then many women achieve the same effect by wearing a swimming cap. Personally,  I don’t understand why women in the street would want to wear a burka or a niqab whereas I can understand why women in a pool or in the sea might want to cover themselves up a bit more.

After all, in a conventional swimsuit you are exposing quite a bit of flesh – something you don’t have to do if you wear normal clothing. Indeed as a man I would feel very self conscious in tight Speedo briefs or budgie smugglers as they are sometimes called whereas I feel much more comfortable in knee length Jammers which are much more modesty preserving.

To vilify Muslim women for wanting to cover up their bodies in a pool therefore strikes me as wrong, especially if it makes them feel more confident about swimming in public. My own personal experience of selling ‘burkinis’ is that many Muslim women who would otherwise not have taken up swimming have decided to do so. To prevent them from swimming will deny them an opportunity to enjoy what is widely regarded as one of the best and most enjoyable forms of exercise possible.

Of course the women at the French holiday camp weren’t told they were being kicked out for religious reasons. Instead they were told their costumes violated hygiene rules. In the same way, men are often prevented from wearing shorts in the water in France. But this again is nonsense. Clearly there aren’t any hygiene issues unless the garment in question is being worn on the streets as an item of leisure wear and then worn in the pool – as some shorts could be, but not a burkini which could only really be worn by the pool.

I hope that the authorities in France let common sense prevail. And let women who want to cover their bodies up while swimming do so!