Civil Rights

The burkini is a toxic ideology, not a dress choice

Burkini, Burqa, bikini, ban
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It is very difficult to understand the uproar caused by the French government’s decision to ban the burkini. This was a reaction to the chaos and turmoil caused by the Islamic fundamentalist sect in the Muslim world and in Europe.

The fundamentalists are the ones who reject participation in the 21st century. They prefer to isolate themselves in seventh century ideas and dress; despite that no one is denying them the right to practice their religion in private. They don’t have the right, however, to invade the public space  and impose their ideology  and belief system represented by their dress.

Any dress is a culmination of a social experience  and a representation of its core values. The fashion worn in the 21st century reflects the progress of our thoughts on equality, human rights,  and women’s rights.

{mosads}Civilized nations worked very hard for centuries to achieve the freedoms we enjoy today. The clothes worn by Muslim fundamentalist women are based on seventh century beliefs. They say that a woman’s honor is directly tied to her clothes and a man is not responsible for his actions if he is tempted by a woman. This is an ideology that absolves men from any responsibility of committing the crime of rape  and blames the victim for not protecting her honor by covering up.

This old ideology was revived in the early 1980s by the introduction of hijab, a seemingly innocuous piece of cloth, under the guise of modesty  and piety. It revived ideas of women’s servitude, promoted a rape culture and led to the political  and social instability we witness today.

The hijab ideology is why young Muslims today think they have the right to sexually assault uncovered women. This was demonstrated by Muslim immigrants gang assaults in Cologne, Germany, last January. Similar attacks happened in March in Sweden  and other European countries that took in Muslim immigrants.

To say the burkini ban stifles cultural diversity is to focus on the superficial garment, not the rape ideology it promotes. That also ignores the deterioration in every aspect of social & political life in the Muslim world since the introduction of this extremist ideology. This isn’t a choice of dress. This is a choice of a very specific ideology that has proven harmful to society.

To say the ban limits their religious freedom is also an invalid argument. Religious freedom means practicing religion in private without fear of intimidation or reprisals. It doesn’t mean people are free to impose their religious beliefs on others. Then of course the Islamic fundamentalist claims that it is Islamophobia, an accusation that assumes that they represent all of Islam & not merely one sect with extreme behavior and ideas whose time had passed 1400 years ago.

The French government’s ban finally shines the light on the glaring contradictions between the fundamentalists’ words  and actions. “Hijab” means to cover/to hide. Yet, they want to participate in every aspect of public life  and invade every public domain. Since neither the hijab nor the burkini is an invisibility cloak, we must wonder: Do they want to hide  and cover their women or are they using religion as a tool to make unquestioned political/social gains?

If we are to take into account the experience of the past 35 years in the majority-Muslim countries, we must conclude that Islam is being used as a means to an end. If the hijab or burkini had anything to do with modesty or piety, the Islamic fundamentalists would have sought private beaches, not insisted on forcing themselves on the public. But as they did before, they want to become part of the accepted social scene  and part of the new norm of the society.

The French government’s burkini ban, unlike Iranian laws that enforce hijab, takes into account the experience in Muslim countries where the introduction of a religious element into the public sphere led to the current strife.

The ban removes an element that has proven to be a corrupting influence  and morally destructive, unlike Iran where the law is based on an untested extremist religious dogma. The ban takes into account the effect of the Islamic fundamentalist ideology on future generations.

If hijab becomes an accepted public phenomenon, a modern society cannot teach its future generations that a woman’s dress is not an excuse for rape.

Islamic fundamentalists should be allowed to worship freely. Their beliefs must be properly defined as solely theirs. The whole society  and future generations must never regard them as acceptable or allow them to become part of the shared common public scene. All groups espousing ideas that veer off the accepted norms of a society isolate themselves  and practice their beliefs in private. Nudists have private beaches. Islamic fundamentalists should not be any different.

The burkini ban is an act of a socially conscious, morally courageous and responsible government with extreme prudence  and futuristic foresight.

Hala Arafa is a retired program review analyst at the International Bureau of Broadcasting and retired news editor at the Arabic Branch of the Voice of America Arabic Branch

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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