Manar Hussein stood in the sand and faced the blue Atlantic Ocean, as the water hit her toes over and over in waves. The 27-year-old Muslim woman had not been to the beach in years, despite living in a state with over 40 beaches. Ever since she started wearing a hijab as a teenager, she never went swimming.
Dressed in the new burkini she bought earlier this year — black leggings, a bright pink long-sleeved swim tunic, topped with a built-in black hijab — Hussein pushed away her fears and looked ahead, ready for the muscle memory to kick in.
She tried not to pay attention to fellow swimmers nearby. She tried not to worry that someone might harass her, or even worse, physically attack her. It wouldn’t be the first time it happened.
Muslim women like Hussein have long been persecuted and intimidated for wearing a modest bathing suit. They have been kicked out of pools and beaches. They have been told that their bathing wear wasn’t suitable. Pool- and beachgoers have even told them to go back to their country. Some have called the police on them.