A friend of mine in the US, now diminished by bad health and trauma, asked me about the burkini war. I post his question, an article he referred to and my answer. And, yes, he’s been “shouting” for years! He’s blind as a bat and more deaf than hearing, I suspect! 😉
“CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO ME WHY THE BURKINI WAR IS A PROBLEM? I WOULD THINK THIS IS A GOOD PARTIAL STEP TO HAVE MUSLIMS TRY TO FIT IN. EVERYTHING DOESN’T CHANGE IN 1 GENERATION. THIS IS A MONUMENTAL STEP FOR MUSLIM WOMEN TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND JUST ENJOY THE SUN.”
My answer to my old friend.
“Oh, this is a complex question. Actually, it isn’t really about the burkini as a piece of clothing. It’s what it represents, what makes it even an option to begin with.
You write that the burkini is a monumental step and that it allows women to go out into the sun. That’s probably true for those who can/are allowed to wear it. A study recently published also stated that Hijabs and Niqabs are good because they too allow Muslim women to go out into society and that just meeting the outside world is a step towards integration.
A hundred years ago, Western Christian women dressed is clothes covering most of their bodies when on the beech as well as away from it. Usual clothing for the finer ladies meant hats to cover hair, long sleeves, ankle length dresses with long arms or gloves ending above the elbows and high, laced boots. Or the constant black of the poorer women and the black triangular head cloth which we called “huckle” tied under the chin.
O tempora, o mores! But times change and a lot of the dress code of back when had strong influences from religion and an old agrarian society imbued with religion, shaped partly by it, and now we have abolished most of the religion. At least pushed it back into the homes and the temples. Sweden, for instance, is said to be one of the two most secularized nations in the world. The other being Japan!
Now we’re seeing not only religiousness but an older form of society interlinked with religion come back and it’s an alien religion and the degree of devoutness is staggering. Again, transport back at least one hundred years. I still remember Good Friday of “before”. Nothing was open. No stores, no theaters, no cinemas. Radio and TV playing only dark, sad classical music in remembrance of Jesus Christ dying on the cross. And that was in the 1960ies! Before that you had to go to church on Sundays and the priest came home to you to question you and make sure you at least display the proper spirit and knew the important parts of the bible and the gospels and the kids had to know “katekesen” – catechism.
Some people say that, hey, let people dress any which way they want! But that’s false! They do not necessarily want to wear Hijab, Niqab or Burka. Some do, but many are forced to in order to, according to men, preserve honor and not to shame family, clan etc. Or they are just accustomed to it from back home and from their peers in the segregated areas where they live since they came to Western countries. The pressure on women, all women, in the ‘burbs, and not only there, is tremendous. And, by the way, let’s not forget about the boys and the men. They are, too, victims in this in that those who really don’t care or who don’t agree are forced to pressure their women.
Most of us here are, and have been for a long time, working for women’s equal rights. What right is there in being forced to wear clothes that covers you? True, women should be allowed to wear what they want and, yes, those who really want to cover themselves, fine… But it must be their own enlightened choice and that doesn’t include implicitly or explicitly being forced to (chose to) cover themselves because otherwise you’re a whore and you have shamed your entire bloodline!
So, the burkini war is really secular society fighting the encroaching religiousness of Islam and also religiousness at least a hundred or more years behind us. And to give these people, the non-secular Muslims, increased rights at separatism by setting precedents is wrong. If we allow one thing, then they have moved their positions forward and it will be harder for us to push them back.
You also write that everything doesn’t change in one generation. No, you’re quite right there. But then the question is, given the rigors of societies like the Muslim ones, how big a chance is there that even x generations will change anything? Because it hinges on two things; integration – made harder/impossible by themselves – and education, religious debate and reformation – and the latter can only happen within their societies and within Islam and the Muslim communities in the midst of more or less secular Christian societies. We can’t have that debate with them. We can only point out how we became secular and hope they chose to follow our path.
By the way, it’s interesting to see that media almost constantly show the half-secular, university educated Syrian when they are in such minority. Compare the willingness to set foot in a Christian church to learn more about Christianity and to let ones kids eat pork with the less educated, if at all, Arab Muslim or African.
We can see in Germany, but that’s more on the ethnic scale but religion, Islam and the patterns created by Islam is still part of it, that Turks don’t want to become Germans. In truth though, Germany certainly hasn’t made it easy or even possible to become a legal German until late. But there is still no particular desire to become German. Also, we talk about white flight but that’s just one side of the coin. The other side is that people do prefer to live with their own kind which means that groups of people or nationalities or those with shared type of original society may want to live together because it’s comfortable in an alien land.
We constantly see Islamists, the peaceful ones but still those who believe in political Islam, and they’re usually but not exclusively Sunni, attempt to make inroads and try to carve pieces out of our society. Should we allow that? We don’t know what’s happening, not really, in the Mosques, when couples go there rather than other institutions to resolve conflicts. What we do know is that the Imam isn’t going to preach the liberal Western society’s standards. This means parallel societies. And what happens when these immigrants want legal support for their separate system?
What may happen to support for GLBTQ, same-sex marriages and relationships? Same-sex adoption right? Single parent adoptions and single women’s right to IVF, women’s right to abortions? Divorce proceedings and rights? Inheritance?
This is where the precedents comes in. Every time we don’t enforce our standards we’re weakened.
So, the burkini is just a token object to fight a war about. It’s not at all about a piece of cloth.”