The Big Deal About the Burkini

When I want to know what’s going on in the news, I usually just go to Google News and poke around for a bit.  In general, I find the news distasteful because it’s always about something controversial, horrible, or ridiculously asinine.  It really isn’t ‘news’ for the most part, at least not the news I grew up on (over three decades ago).

A small firestorm has been brewing lately over a clothing item that is causing a bit of a stir – the burkini. One would think that it is a bathing suit that leaves nothing to the imagination, since practical nudity remains more offensive than an inability to see any flesh at all.

First of all, what the heck is a burkini?

It is a bathing suit designed for women who wish to enjoy the beach but remain modestly covered while doing so.  According to Aheda Zanetti, the designer and person who trademarked the name ‘burkini’ – it’s a marriage between modest dress and an active (and beach-going) lifestyle.  Something like a cross between a burka and a bikini (but not really), it allows Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women, and other women who prefer not to engage in public displays of excessive flesh, the ability to remain true to their modesty, faith, or other personal, social, ethical, or religious mores – and still enjoy a day at the beach.

Apparently, some countries and people have a big problem with a woman wanting to enjoy a relaxing day at the beach while exercising the freedom of choice and staying modestly covered from (primarily) head to toe.  The ironic thing about this is that bathing suits were almost identical 150 years ago.

A quick primer on head-coverings for Muslim women, for the uninitiated (which included me): There are actually several different types and styles of head-covering that a Muslim woman can wear.  While it is considered ‘mandatory’ based on the principles of Islam, there is much debate about whether or not the Qur’an actually and specifically states that a woman is required to cover practically every inch of flesh when she is out in public.  We will get back to that shortly.

At the most basic level, Muslim female body-covering is done to essentially avoid any potential for sexual impropriety or attention based on desires of the flesh (aka: lust).  A woman’s body is reserved for her husband’s enjoyment, and Muslims (and some others) take that to the extreme.

Obviously.  I mean, look at how slutty many of the girls and women look in the United States, including pre-teens (and younger), running around in bootie shorts and sports bras, acting coquettish around men (and not even knowing what that word means), and worrying more about the opposite sex than about getting an education and becoming an adult worthy of respect.  Of course, they also end up pregnant at 14, infected with an STD by 16, and strung out on drugs by 18, with 3 more kids by 3 different guys, to boot, and living out their uninspired lives on government assistance and welfare at the taxpayers’ expense.  (I am stereotyping in the worst possible way, but the basic concept is there – a large percentage of younger American women dress and act like low-paid whores.)

Well, look who has a problem with female modesty and/or freedom of choice…

Apparently, the country of France hates modestly-attired females, especially when they are hanging out at the beach.  People living along the French Riviera don’t want to see clothing – they want flesh!  The Prime Minister of France, a 54-year old named Manuel Valls, feels the same way and supports the bans against burkinis on French beaches.  (He’s a Swiss Spaniard who supports Scandinavian-style socialism.  Say that five times fast.)

At least France’s high court is populated with a few intelligent people who support personal freedom. Germany is now looking into banning the burkini and the burka (actual spelling is ‘burqa’), but the German government has run into a bit of a snag with their knee-jerk phobic reaction – there really aren’t any people in Germany (or elsewhere in the entire world, actually) who wear a burka.

Something you need to know at this point – a burka is different from a Muslim head-covering.  A burka is actually a full body drape, like a giant tent, with a thin mesh screen for the wearer to see out of.  It truly is a complete and total flesh-covering piece of apparel.  However, not a lot of people wear them, tending instead to stick to more comfortable, conventional, or less restrictive coverings.

WWMD?  (What would Mohamed do?)

This section’s sub-heading is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but the information has been earnestly and diligently researched.  For those who don’t know, Mohamed is to Islam like Jesus is to Christianity.  Pretty much.

Is head-to-toe body covering mandated by the Qur’an?  Some say yes, some say no, others say it’s a matter of interpretation, and yet others say that the references to body covering are part of the Qur’an that is considered ‘weak’ (without an accessible narrator or source attribution) and therefore not mandatory.

Typically, a Muslim woman’s head covering is called a ‘hijab.’  Traditionally, it was not always part of their culture and faith to wear a hijab or cover their ‘ornaments’ (Qur’an reference) and/or allow their head covering to obscure their breasts.  In fact, Muslim women used to bare their breasts to departing husbands and lovers when the men were heading off to battle.  The only reference in the Qur’an (as revealed by an Internet search) that actually mentions the covering of a woman’s body specifically states that she is to utilize her head covering to keep her bosom covered.  It doesn’t mandate the head covering, however.

Numbers don’t lie…

According to burkini designer Aheda Zanetti, she has seen a surge in sales since the French ban, so the controversy is helping her business.  She has also stated that a whopping 40% of her customers are non-Muslim.  Kind of blows the traditional stereotyping out of the water, doesn’t it?

In the end, who really cares?

If a woman wants to wear a body-covering bathing suit to the beach, who cares?  Some proponents of the French ban argue in support of prohibiting burka-style clothing because it permits the face and other body parts to be obscured, thus possibly concealing a terroristic weapon of mass destruction AND preventing the identification of the potential perpetrator.  Really?  Good grief.

Motorcycle helmets, jackets, hats, babushkas, and hoodies ALL do the same thing.  If I go to the beach wearing footie pajamas, no one cares.  If I go to the beach wearing an oversized hoodie and sweat pants, no one cares.  If I go to the beach wearing a Santa Claus costume, no one cares.  So can we please NOT care if a woman wants to dress modestly on a damned beach in France, or anywhere else in the world?

A word to any Muslims or Islamic followers who have read this post:  If I have gotten any facts or other information about the Islamic faith incorrect within this text, I apologize.  My intention was not to offend or misinform.  Please send a message with properly-sourced corrections and I’ll be happy to make changes.

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