20 August 2009
The burqini as a fashion statement might not warrant much discussion, but it seems as a practical garment for swimming that allows Muslim women and girls to enjoy the wonders of water whether it be in a swimming pool or at the beach has become a bit of a flash point, at least in France.
The burqini is a head-to-toe swimsuit that apparently meets all the strict dress requirements for Muslim women to be seen in public. It was designed by an Australian, Aheda Zanetti, and would appear, at least to my unfashionable eye, to be a practical solution to the issue at hand.
However, it would seem that the French are somewhat more fashionable that I and have banned the burqini from being worn in French swimming pools. The reason, the suit is unhygienic, and therefore it is a public health issue. I am wondering exactly what hygiene issues are involved that would make the wearing of the burqini in a public pool any less hygienic than a naughty 10-year-old taking a pee in the pool.
Yet, it would seem that the rationale is that larger garments would conceivably carry more bacteria. This sounds pretty weak as an argument considering the last time I swam in a public pool it was like jumping into a bottle of chlorine. Then again, I am not a scientist with knowledge of the intricacies of burqini hygiene.
Interestingly, reports out of France say that the move as received widespread support from the French population and there has not been a significant backlash form French Muslims in response to the ban.
The Mayor of a regional Italian town, Varallo Sesia, has also banned the burqini from the local swimming pool as well. The reason is also related to hygiene matters. However, the mayor is also a member of a party that is staunchly anti-immigration and his comments might suggest that there is more at play than just hygiene.
The mayor is alleged to have said words to the effect that the sight of a masked woman at a swimming pool would scare young children, and imagine a western woman wearing a bikini in a Muslim nation as she would be at risk of decapitation, among other punishments. The idea being that the local mayor is only banning the wearing of the burqini and not arresting or punishing its wearers.
Are these valid arguments? Or, would the governments seeking to ban the wearing of the burqini be better served by continuing to trot out the hygiene excuse and ratchet that up with a few scientific studies?
Life in a multicultural world.