Summer is just around the corner and the perennial question of the burkini is coming back like a yearly boomerang, just like the Latin beat that should accompany summer people on the beach. However, if musical successes are never predictable, the headlines, comments, condemnations and other resurgences on the legitimacy or banning of this “beachwear”, an extension of the hijab, will certainly be at the heart of the debate.
Already at the beginning of last spring, the first rebound, heir of a phenomenon whose jolts go back to 2016: the grotesque project of the ecologist mayor of Grenoble, Éric Piolle, to authorise the burkini in the swimming pools of his municipality, by modifying their internal regulations.
A little background: the creation of this swimwear is attributed to an Australian of Lebanese origin named Aheda Zanetti. It was 2004, in Sydney. The young woman says that she got the idea while watching her niece play netball. The young teenager had difficulty moving around on the beach with her hijab on and so Aheda, after “doing research and not finding any suitable clothing for sporty, modest women” came up with the concept of the Burkini. The imaginative garment seemed appropriate, she said, because Australia’s beaches are “an integral part of Australian life” and the commercial void needed to be filled with appropriate and “religiously correct” clothing.
However, if the designer’s intentions were undoubtedly well-intentioned, could she have imagined, like the butterfly effect, the profound societal and sociological questions that this outfit would raise in one of the oldest European democracies, more than 15,000 km from Australian beaches?
Who benefits from the controversy?
While some conciliatory minds say that one should not systematically see the hand of Islamism in this, others see in it the barely invisible hand of religious fundamentalists, more tempted by a disorder of the West than a real permission of the practice of swimming by Muslim women.
Mezri Haddad, philosopher and former diplomat, wrote in 2016 in the Huffpost: “In this war of obscurantism against the Enlightenment led by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is consubstantially and ideologically linked to the other terrorist war that ISIS is waging against the West, the strategy of the enemy from within is both simple and formidable: stir up scandal, provoke debate in order to reap the media or symbolic benefits and possibly the political-legal gains”.
One thing is clear: the trap set works, and with panache. Placing the swimming polemic in this fine-tuned pre-summer timing is a matter of goldsmith’s precision! It’s hot, citizens flock in mass to the watering holes, while the division of the leisure space between “emancipated and uninhibited women” and devout women, covered from head to toe, always causes annoyance and gnashing of teeth.
What does French law say?
The burkini does not hide the face and is therefore not prohibited on the public highway by law in France. It is therefore up to the private companies that manage the leisure facilities to enforce their own regulations. Often in modern democracies laws are passed after media scandals. It was during the prohibition of the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols by accompanying persons on school outings (a law passed after the incident caused by the NR deputy Julien Odoul who called out a veiled mother accompanying a school outing to the regional council of Burgundy Franche-Comté) that the Senate attached a provision to the bill on “respect for republican principles”, we are now on 30 March 2021. As a reminder, it is a hemicycle made up of elected representatives from the right and the centre that adopted this amendment proposed by Michel Savin, a senator the Republicans from Isère, with the aim of “curbing the use of the burkini”.
As for artistic vagueness, nothing could be better! “The ‘regulations’ for the use of a public swimming pool or artificial bathing area for collective use guarantee respect for the principles of neutrality of public services and secularism”, the new article informs, but its approximation leaves room for interpretation.
In conclusion, this storm in a glass of salty or chlorinated water, provoked by left-wing elected officials, is only intended, in the end, to bring water to the mill of the supporters of political Islam. This is what makes people laugh under the beard of those who have been trying for decades to provoke spasms and earthquakes in the Western way of life.
Hadrien Mathoux wrote with great lucidity in an article in Marianne: “The debates generated by this covering swimming costume, mixing burqa and bikini, translate well the complexity of the theme of Islamism: this enterprise of nibbling society by the religious, which relies on a growing visibility of Islam in a secular country”.