In London, municipal swimming pools are requiring non-Muslim women to wear something called a “burkini” during designated Muslim swim times. A burkini (a coined word combined from burqa and bikini) is a swim suit that covers the Muslim bathing beauties head-to-toe. It resembles those burkas seen among Muslims in such places as Afghanistan. Muslim men are supposed to wear swim suits that cover everything from the navel to knee. Islam enjoins them to wear these suits because Muslims must dress modestly even when swimming. Several pools in London have knuckled under to this edict, and according to the Daily Telegraph, swimmers not wearing this attire may not enter the pool during those times reserved for Muslims.
The “Croydon council in south London runs separate one-and-a half-hour swimming sessions for Muslim men and women every Saturday and Sunday at Thornton Heath Leisure Centre,” the Telegraph reports. “Swimmers were told last week on the centre’s website that ‘during special Muslim sessions male costumes must cover the body from the navel to the knee and females must be covered from the neck to the ankles and wrists.’”
Another pool in North Lincolnshire issued a similar rule, noting that “users must follow the required dress code for this session (T-shirts and shorts/leggings that cover below the knee).”
And so it goes in London’s pools and natatoria. Oddly, leftist Laborites protested against the burkini. Said a member of parliament named Ian Cawsey, who represents North Lincolnshire, “Of course swimming pools have basic codes of dress but it should not go beyond that. I don’t think that in a local authority pool I should have to wear a particular type of clothes for the benefit of someone else. That’s not integration or cohesion.” Said another with a large Muslim constituency, “Unfortunately this kind of thing has a negative impact on community relations.”
Meanwhile, a pool in France swam in the opposite direction. It forbid a woman from wearing a burkini because French pool policy limits swim wear to garments that cannot be worn outside the pool, a rule meant to curb the growth of bacteria. Though the burkini wasn’t banned per se, it still can’t be worn. This naturally, invited a lawsuit from the woman, a plaintiff known only as “Carole” who converted to Islam when she was 17.
Of course, if the British and French hadn't permitted millions of Muslims to flood their countries, the burkini debate would never have erupted, but in any event the interesting thing is why the British and French oppose it. They oppose the burkini, apparently, because it offends modern sensibilities on integration and sexism and might spread bacteria. They don’t seem care what it represents religiously or culturally.
The British, indeed, oppose the burkini because it might be “divisive,” to borrow a word from the Telegraph, meaning the burkini hampers the leftist goal of “integration.” You’d think that respect for “diversity” stands opposite “integration,” but in the event the tremulous integrationists haven’t figured it out, Muslims in Britain aren’t all that enamored of integration. A look at the videos of Islamic protestors smashing a parade for Iraq War veterans is instructive on that count.
Unlike Britain, France banned the burkini instead of mandating it at certain times. However, not because it is an alien cultural artifact that will hold tremendous symbolism of yet another victory for Muslims, but rather, because the French are afraid of cooties. Moreover, aside from the burkini, France is debating whether to ban the burka, the burkini‘s dry-land progenitor. The National Assembly has convened a 32-man panel to study the issue. Said French President Nicholas Sarkozy, “We cannot accept in our country women trapped behind a fence, cut off from social life, deprived of any identity. This is not the idea that we have of a woman's dignity.”
But what is Sarkozy defending? It isn’t Christendom’s traditional, chivalric view that women play different but indispensable and equally important roles as men in society, and therefore must be accorded dignity and respect. He flatly stated that the problem with burkas is not religious or cultural, which means he is defending the traditional leftist view that women are in all ways equivalent to men and cannot be treated differently. France is officially secular. So in 2004, when it banned the hijab, or Muslim head scarf, in French public schools, it also banned certain “large” crucifixes and yarmulkes, the Jewish skull cap. The problem with the burka, then, is only that it offends leftist ideology. “It is a sign of subservience,” Sarkozy says. “It is a sign of lowering.” Whether it is those things, or simply extreme modesty, the leftist sexual paradigm that modern France represents hardly elevates her women.
The unfortunate thing about this debate is that it will stifle those who rightly believe modern swim wear is immodest. There isn't much debate on the topic these days, but a trip to the city pool in this country will suggest to the visitor that the scantily attired women, particularly middle-aged mothers and their teen-age daughters, as well as younger girls, want to provoke the opposite sex. Virtually nothing is left to the imagination.
That said, at least the French, whose cities burn when “restive youths” go beserk, are fighting back against forced acquiesence to a non-native culture. The British seem to have surrendered.
Photo: AP Images
R. Cort Kirkwood, managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va., has been writing about American politics and culture for more than 20 years. Mr. Kirkwood has written for Chronicles, The New American, National Review, The Remnant, The Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal, The Baltimore Sun, The Orange County Register, Taki’s Top Drawer online magazine, and LewRockwell.com. For several years, he syndicated a column, “The Hard Line.” Mr. Kirkwood is the author of the nonfiction title, Real Men: Ten Courageous Americans To Know And Admire, published by Cumberland House.