How the burkini debate boosted sales of modest swimwear in Israel

Source: The Washington Post

September 11 at 6:00 PM
One of the most jarring images of the summer was of French police demanding that a Muslim woman on a beach in Nice remove parts of her full-bodied swimsuit, known as a burkini.

The photo ignited a debate over French values and religious liberty but also sparked curiosity worldwide. Why do women cover up on the beach? Is it their choice? And does it really matter what swimwear people wear?

Think speedos.

Even after a French court overturned the ban, many Israelis felt quite smug when they heard about France’s burkini debate. Although Israel is not known as a bastion of religious tolerance, people here are quite accepting when it comes to religious attire. And it’s not unusual to see ultra-Orthodox Jewish and Muslim women fully covered on Israeli beaches, sitting next to the scantily clad.

Why a French court overturned the so-called burkini ban

France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’État, overturned the so-called burkini bans in 26 of the country’s coastal towns and cities. (Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

At the SunWay warehouse in Hod Hasharon, near Tel Aviv, Anat Yahav does not refer to her line of full-coverage swimsuits as burkinis. To her, they are just modest swimsuits for anyone of any religion, shape, age or size — and for any reason.

“Who decided that women should go to the beach in a bra and panties?” Yahav said on a recent Sunday afternoon, sitting in her airy office at the entrance to SunWay’s colorful warehouse. Orders for her modest swimwear line have increased since the controversy last month, she said, and interest has certainly piqued. Her suits are widely sold — through distributors in Miami, department stories in Greece and online globally, as well as in outlets in Israel.

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1 reply

  1. When there is no safety issue to the greater public, women should be free to choose their attire. Where the Burqa is concerned, yes, there is a safety issue that might cause limits to be imposed up on it’s use. However, the burkini is the creation of a woman which offers Muslim women freedom to get in the water and play on the beach. While providing the modesty that their beliefs require, it allows for freedom of movement and safety in the water, takes the place of sticky sun screen and celebrates the creativity of the Australian woman who both designed and cleverly named it.

    According to a Christian woman, I would totally wear a burkini to the beach or especially in a pool . . . no more swim suit accidents (oops, where did my top/bottom go?), no more wet hair impairing vision, and a layer of added warmth. To Burkini haters, I say get over it. . . it’s the least of your Muslim related safety concerns.

    It was an appalling scene to watch in a civilized country like France which claim to uphold freedom of choice taking away the right of a woman to wear her religious attire as she deem fit.

    According to the Independent, armed police have forced a woman on a beach in Nice to remove her Burkini as part of a controversial new ban.

    The incident occurred on the beach at the city’s Promenade des Anglais, the location of the lorry attack on Bastille Day in which 84 people were killed last month.

    Photographs show four police officers armed with handguns, batons and pepper spray standing round the woman who was lying on the beach wearing a blue headscarf and matching top.

    France’s highest administrative court will decide on Friday, whether to overturn the ban on wearing the full-body Burkini swimsuit, according to Aljazeera.

    The State Council heard arguments on Thursday from the Human Rights League and an anti-Islamophobia group who are seeking to reverse a decision by the southern town of Villeneuve-Loubet to ban the Islamic swimsuit.

    If a society allows this infringement of human rights to happen to an innocent person, that society should be concerned about its future with democracy. In abandoning one of its own, it is condemning itself because an attack on one citizen is an attack to all citizens. It is also an attack to democracy as a whole.

    Bénédicte Jeannerod of Human Rights Watch criticized this ban and described it as “a deep shame.”

    “During a time of national emergency, surely French police have better things to do than humiliate women on the country’s beaches,” he wrote.

    Instead of encouraging all French people to live together peacefully and promoting equality and fundamental freedoms, which is the responsibility of the public authorities, the Burkini ban and the revival of the endless controversy on religious symbols linked to Islam merely stigmatize practicing Muslim women, exclude them from public spaces – and sharing those spaces with their families and friends – and deprive them of their rights to autonomy, to leisure activities, to wear what they chose, and of course to practice their faith.

    Not to mention the ridiculous argument about hygiene: how can one seriously think that Burkinis are less hygienic than wet suits, or long-sleeve T-shirts worn by kids to protect them from the sun?” he added.

    The woman did not pose any threat. Her simple attire was not a threat to the national security nor was it weapon of mass destruction.

    Why would a powerful country like France with all its weaponry feel threatened by a simple and harmless piece of garment? Is it so fragile to that extent until it feels shaken to the core by a Muslim woman with simple clothing?

    It is frightening to see how bigotry and racism can do to the human intellect. It has an effect to the human judgement and perception as it can influence authorities of a democratic nation to act undemocratically without feeling shame about it.

    Banning Burkini is double standard when nuns covering themselves up are allowed at the beach as indicated by Barbie Latza Nadeau in her article, Where’s the Outrage Over Nun Beachwear?

    “Go to any public beach in Italy and chances are you’ll eventually see a woman wearing a veil and long skirt,” Ms Nadeau said. But she likely won’t be a Muslim in a version of the controversial Burkini. She will almost certainly be a Catholic nun in her summer habit either watching children in her care or, God forbid, just enjoying some sun, which is considered a human right here in Italy, where the sea defines the majority of the borders. ”

    ” No one in Italy would dare blink an eye at the sight of a habit-wearing sister at the seaside or even in the water.” she added.

    The respect people around the world have had towards France would be shattered for treating a helpless woman in this abusive manner as if she was a criminal while all she was trying to do was to enjoy the beach as everyone else.

    While we strongly reject and condemn extremists around the world who claim to know what is best for women and what they should wear, we tend to follow the same footstep as the extremists whom we claim to abhor.

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