Do nuns go swimming

Burkini debate: now it's about nuns too

An imam from Italy posted a picture of nuns in clothes on the beach. Meanwhile, the British are shaking their heads at the calls for a ban in France.

Izzeddin Elzir is President of the Association of the Muslim Community in Italy. He has expanded the discussion about possible burkini bans in Europe in his own way. And he obviously thinks: a picture is worth a thousand words. So he posted a photo with seven nuns on the beach on Facebook - without comment. Elzir told the newspaper “La Nazione” that he did not want to compare nuns with Muslims or the pieces of clothing directly with one another. The nuns don't go swimming in their habit either, but enjoy a footbath on the beach.

Apparently many Christians reacted positively to the entry of the Imam from Italy. That pleases him. He does not accept the argument that a nun goes to a monastery voluntarily, but the woman who wears the burkini would be forced to do so. «To insinuate that Muslim women should be submissive hurts women. We are all born free, including Muslim women. But what kind of freedom is it when you rob them of the freedom to dress how they want, ”he explains. However, he himself does not believe in the compulsion to cover up. He is of the opinion that Islamic women should dress as they want.

No understanding of the ban in the English-speaking world

The English-speaking world, shaking its head, is following the burkini ban on French beaches like Nice and Cannes. In countries like Great Britain and Australia, newspaper commentators call the French controversy over full-body bathing suits for Muslim women "absurd". "Is a full-body suit really more offensive than looking at the front of a middle-aged person?" They ask. Other critics question France's integration model.

Fully veiled women are not uncommon in British cities and neighborhoods with high Muslim populations. But apparently they do not trigger such strong reactions as in France, which separates religion and state particularly rigidly.

Defenders of this policy say that coexistence without religious connotations avoids sectarian conflicts and promotes equality. Accordingly, the burkini - like the burqa before it - sparked a heated debate in France.

Some see it as a sign of radical Islam and the oppression of women. "It is the translation of a political project, a counter-society based, among other things, on the subjugation of women," said French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Violent contradiction

Such arguments are heavily contradicted in Great Britain. The country's most famous burkini wearer is not a Muslim, but TV boss Nigella Lawson, who made headlines in 2011 when she plunged into the waves on Australia's famous Bondi Beach in a black burkini - to avoid sunburn.

In a survey by the BBC broadcaster, women said that the burkini was more likely to help people integrate. “The burkini gives me the freedom to swim and go to the beach, and I don't feel that I am harming my religion,” says Aysha Ziauddin.

"It is unheard of that you either have to reveal your skin or leave," says Maryam Ouiles. "People always complain that Muslims should integrate more closely, and if we go swimming with you, that's not right either."

«French absurdity »

The Times commentator, David Aaronovitch, said that only “weird spirits” could impose a burkini ban. This "French absurdity" does not solve any problems, rather it creates new ones.

Remona Aly, Head of Communications at the Exploring Islam Foundation, made a list of the "five reasons to wear a burkini - and not just to annoy the French." "Nothing is more wacky for me than the demonization of - let me tell you - a swimsuit," she wrote in the newspaper "The Guardian".

In the US, the burkini ban is seen as illogical because it prescribes rules for women who are supposed to be exempt from rules. The ban is more than religion or clothing, said Amanda Taub in the "New York Times". It is about "protecting the non-Muslim French majority from dealing with the changing world".

Sign of integration

In Australia, where beach life is part of the national self-image, the burkini is seen as a symbol of integration. This is where the burkini - a word created from the burqa and bikini - was finally invented more than ten years ago. Namely by the now 48-year-old Aheda Zanetti, an Australian with Lebanese roots.

As an adolescent in the land of sun, beach and surfing, she was unable to take part in many activities because she had to adhere to the rules of decency, she says. When she drew her first burkini, her main concern was how Muslim girls can play sports and respect their beliefs at the same time.

SDA / fal

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