In my post on Sour, I included a photo of a young Muslim girl going swimming, covered and veiled – a concept completely foreign and interesting to me. And you know how sometimes when you learn something new, it somehow seems to pop up everywhere??? So here’s what I’ve found out about Muslim swimwear, which now seems to pop up everywhere:
At the beach in Sour, as far as I could tell, these women and children were going swimming in their clothing – a naïve but understandable assumption. But, as it turns out, there’s actually a relatively large market for full-body swimsuits for Muslim women that allow them to swim without exposing themselves. And better yet, they call the swimsuits ‘burqinis.’ (burq – from ‘burqa,’ the Arabic word meaning the full Muslim veil, and ‘-ini’ is taken from ‘bikini’) I love it!
If you google ‘burqini,’ one of the first sights to pop up is Ahiida Burqini Swimwear, a company founded in 2004 and based in Australia that specializes in “dynamic swimwear and sportswear for today’s Muslim female.” The company was actually started by a Lebanese woman named Aheda Zanetti, who moved to Australia as a child, and frustrated by her inability to participate in prevalent Australian water sports, decided to design a swimsuit specifically tailored to the modern Muslim woman. The resultant burqini allows Muslim women to easily and flexibly swim and compete in water sports, while still remaining completely covered. Clever, huh?
While this trendy Muslim swimsuit is all the rage in Lebanon and Australia, the burqini and the Muslim burqa in general have, unfortunately, been topics of controversy in France for a few years now. Why France? They have the largest Muslim minority population in the EU, and there are those that believe that discrimination against Muslims will decrease if they become less visibly Muslim and more visibly French. Plus, there are entire lobbies of French women (well, and men for that matter) who see the veil as an infringement upon women’s rights. I’ve summed it up in an insanely brief way, but needless to say, it’s a sticky situation.
Anyway, the reason I bring all this up, is that there was actually an article today (see – burqinis everywhere!) in the Daily Star - ‘Paris Pool Bans Woman in Burqini Swimsuit’- discussing the controversy that has arisen over the use of the burqini in France:
“A Paris swimming pool has refused entry to a young Muslim woman wearing a ‘burqini,’ a swimsuit that covers most of the body, officials said Wednesday. The pool ban came as French lawmakers conduct hearings on whether to ban the burqa after President Nicolas Sarkozy said the head-to-toe veil was ‘not welcome’ in secular France. Officials in the Paris suburb of Emerainville said they let the woman swim in the pool in July wearing the burqini, designed for Muslim women who want to swim without revealing their bodies. But when she returned in August they decided to apply hygiene rules and told her she could not swim if she insisted on wearing the garment, which resembles a wetsuit with a built-in hood. France, home to Europe’s biggest Muslim minority, has set up a special panel of 32 lawmakers to consider whether a law should be enacted to bar Muslim women from wearing the full veil, known as a burqa or niqab.” – AFP
Amazing that a glorified wetsuit could stir up so much controversy. I for one have always been a proponent of the belief that respect for differences rather than forced assimilation is a better way to create a peaceful society, but I can respect that this is a complicated issue.