In my very first blog post on here, I talked about the Paris attacks. I said something back then that I had to repeat quite a bit over the last couple of months: that Europe and France in particular can only face increasing terrorism with more openness and democracy and not by closing down. Well, at least now I know decision makers don’t read my blog.
The whole discussion around the so-called “burkini” this last week have impressively shown that, when the French government gave its municipalities the right to ban face coverings, leading to this bizarre scene on a beach in Nice. Since then, the country’s Supreme Court has ruled these practices unconstitutional. Well… surprise, surprise.
Why the burkini is no problem whatsoever
It is hard to believe that such a non-issue drew this much attention. No free and liberal society can tell anyone what to wear and what not to wear. This is banal and should be unworthy a discussion! And while every state should be careful and investigate cases of religious extremism thoroughly, everyday symbols of religiosity that hurt absolutely nobody really should not be a point of contention. Not in France and not in 2016.
The argumentation used by those calling for such bans is equally nonsensical. In order to cover up their own narrow-mindedness they – once confronted – try to justify themselves by claiming they fight for the rights of these women. This begs the question: who are you to judge?
Are Muslim women that are wearing burkas, hijabs or burkinis also often oppressed? Yes they clearly are, at least for our standards. Are we the ones to liberate them? Well, to put it like this: men have rarely liberated women and Europeans have rarely liberated other cultures. Pretending to act in their interest on issues that are not violating our laws or civil liberties will be of no help to anyone. Instead, we are making a problem out of clothing. Clothing!
Why people think the burkini is a problem
So if burkinis so obviously are not a problem, why do people make them one? The answer takes us full circle and is really quite simple. In the end it is nothing but increasingly open racism within certain right-wing pressure groups, more widespread fear of the unknown in the general population and a political class not learning from its mistakes. Again, a social democratic government chose to try and appease the right by adopting its policies and again it failed.
All this is once again playing into the hands of the right-wing populists of Marine Le Pen and severely damages France’s reputation along the way. If politicians don’t start to stand up to ill-guided fears and blatant racism and provide real solutions, we are really heading for trouble. The burkini issue might be banal but it might also just be the beginning.