Burkinis – not worth freaking out over

Of course I understand why people in the south of France especially are hair-trigger on the subject.

The most evil words in the world?

Posted on July 16, 2016 by Neil

… are not those referencing bodily parts or functions or sexual activities. Rather they are those that dehumanise to the point where you think it is a rather good idea to drive a truck through crowds of innocent fellow-humans, or act like that shithead in Norway – not a Muslim—who five years ago ran around shooting 77 teenagers and others because he didn’t care for their politics.

So I lament Nice, and all the other horrors across the world in past weeks and months…

But I do think some French authorities have gone down the wrong track lately. So does Aussie May Fahmy in today’s Herald.

For the uninitiated, burkini are full body swim suits, commonly worn by Muslim women and occasionally by others who generally prefer the extra coverage or who are sun conscious; Nigella Lawson famously wore one once on Bondi Beach to protect her alabaster skin. Recently, cities in France have banned them on their beaches.This ban was introduced in Cannes to ensure beach goers wear clothing “which respects good customs and secularism”, according to Mayor David Lisnar (nuns’ habits are apparently exempt).

See more posts here tagged “terror”.

While some, like this Western progressive feminist, may disagree, I think the burkini is not worth freaking out over.


The burkini is in fact an Australian invention, following the Cronulla riots of 2005.

…The controversy resonates sharply in a country where the female attire has been a flash point between the traditionally secular majority and a Muslim minority, with mostly immigrant backgrounds, for years. Throw in devastating recent attacks linked to Islamist militants and the situation is pretty volatile.

Yet for all the burkini controversy, the backstory of the garment is often overlooked. The burkini didn’t originate in Europe. And, no, it didn’t originate in the Middle East or a Muslim-majority nation, either.

Instead, the burkini was crafted in Australia, designed for the white sandy beaches of Sydney. And though the garment is proving divisive in Europe, its creator says she was inspired by a desire for inclusion — and a healthy entrepreneurial spirit…

At first Zanetti’s garment attracted only a niche following. However in the aftermath of the 2005 Cronulla riots, local organisations began to look for a way to help Muslim Australians integrate and show others that their Muslim peers were part of Australian society. In 2007, Surf Life Saving Australia launched a campaign to find Muslim lifeguards to work on Sydney’s beaches…

An example following on from that is this 2007 entry from Pommygranate:

This year sees the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the first surf club, at Bondi beach, in 1907. This week should see the arrival of the first Muslim surf life savers as part of a wonderful initiative by Surf Life Saving Australia to broaden its membership. It was only in 1980 that women surf life savers were admitted. They now account for 40% of membership.

It is also part of a campaign, called On The Same Wave, assisted by a $600,000 government grant to recruit Australians of Middle Eastern heritage to try to rebuild community relations following the Cronulla riots in December 2005.

Mecca Laalaa, 20, is one of a group of Muslims hoping to become a life saver following completion of a ten week training course in November. She is unable to wear a bikini so a local Lebanese designer came up with a novel idea, the burqini – a full-length lycra suit complete with built-in headscarf. The suit does make swimming more difficult but hopefully not significantly so.


See also last night’s 7.30 on ABC: Australian-designed burkini at centre of national debate in France.

Strange world sometimes! Aussies of a certain age will remember this well:


And this one I conclude with, though it is a touch paradoxical:


Update 27 August

Maybe good sense will prevail after all? Top French court temporarily suspends burkini ban.

France’s highest administrative court has suspended a controversial ban on full-body “burkini” swimsuits, pending a definitive ruling.

The State Council gave the ruling on Friday following a request from the League of Human Rights to overturn the ban in the Mediterranean town of Villeneuve-Loubet on the grounds it contravenes civil liberties.

The court said in a statement that the decree to ban burkinis in Villeneuve-Loubet “seriously, and clearly illegally, breached the fundamental freedoms to come and go, the freedom of beliefs and individual freedom”…