At what point does a ban become a chance to publicly humiliate?

I read in the papers recently, like many others, about the lady who was forced by armed police to remove her Burkini on a beach in Nice and then fined £32. The story sickened me to see this woman so public humiliated but it raised more questions with me the angrier I got.

As a non-practicing Christian the religious argument of having to cover ones face from the world has always been lost on me. Rather than hiding a woman’s body from the prying eyes of men we should be teaching men not to have such prying eyes. There is no mention of the burqa in Islamic texts such as the Qur’an, it is in theory the wearers choice and I like to think that a lot of women who do choose to cover their face do so of their own will. The ‘Burkini’ is a relatively new garment invented in 2004 by Aheda Zanetti and has received some traction in the press as of late.  Far from the bikini it takes its name from, it is impossible to think of any other way to wear the religious dress and still go swimming.

A global threat

The threat from Islamic extremists is real. France particularly has seen its worth 12 months ever (probably) with the number of terror attacks and loss of such vast numbers but banning any more on the beach wearing a headscarf and long sleeves will not solve the problem if anything simply exacerbate it.  

The story in the press  (The Metro, The Guardian) is the version the media want us to see but it is difficult not to see this as a degrading, targeted and public attack. The lady in question was lying on the beach on her own minding her own business. Her face was not covered but her body and hair was.

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photo from The Guardian, via

There are just so many questions!

  • Is an identifiable woman asleep on the beach really a threat to the wider population?
    • We see suicide bombers walking around clearly showing their face and arms. We see preachers from every religion shouting controversial passages out in the streets which upsets me more than a woman lying on a beach covering her body. On many tourist beaches today it is refreshing to see women who do cover up with more than two pieces of string and a triangle of cloth.
  • The incident took place on a beach in Nice, why would you be there if you want to hide your body?
    • Possibly the most controversial of my questions but for me I go to the beach to tan, to swim, to feel the sand and the sun on my body. Having never worn a burkini I don’t know but I don’t see why you would want to if your modesty is of upmost importance but then again everyone has the right to swim and sit on the beach if they want to (I think I’ve just voided my own argument there!)
  • How does she look any different to any other woman in the winter or anyone else for that matter?
    One of these is illegal on a beach
    • I wear long sleeve tops under dresses and thick black tights in the winter, when it is really cold I’ll also wear a hat and a scarf leaving only my face on show – I’m not targeted and fined. Scuba divers, nuns etc. where is the difference?
  • Why did she so willingly take it off?
    • This is a trickier one. If she was wearing the burka through religious reasons there is no way she would have removed it so willingly on a public beach for fear of ultimate exposure. For a hijab wearing Muslim woman taking off those layers must feel like being naked. I wouldn’t so quickly surrender my clothes in public even if a gun man was standing over me.

France started banning all conspicuous religious symbols in public back in 2004 before the ‘burqa-ban‘ came in in 2010. I support the ban on full face coverings. I think every individual should be facially identifiable at any given time but asking for the removal of all religious dress to me is crazy. I’d like to see an armed guard tell my Nanna to remove the gold cross around her neck or my neighbour Mr Singh to take the turban from his head.

Not everyone is all that bad

A business man from Algeria has vowed to pay every fine given to women for wearing a burka in order to “guarantee their freedom of wearing these clothes, and most of all, to neutralize the application on the ground of this oppressive and unfair law.”  As commendable as this is I can’t help but think he is only in it for the publicity and it doesn’t really solve the problem. That is for the French government!

For the rest of the world and those of us believe in liberté for women seeing any woman forced to underdress in such a public way is absolutely not the way we do things in the 21st Century!


3 thoughts on “At what point does a ban become a chance to publicly humiliate?

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