“Freedom of religion in France is guaranteed by the constitutional rights set forth in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”.
Recently images have emerged of armed policemen, forcing a Muslim woman to publicly undress on the beach. Following the recent Burkini ban in some French cities, a 34-year-old mother of two, whose family have been French citizens for at least three generations, was issued a ticket saying she was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism”.
Mathilde Cusin, a French journalist for France 4 TV, who witnessed the incident, said: “I saw three police officers watching the beach. One of them had his finger on the trigger of his tear gas device, no doubt containing pepper.” “It was pretty violent. I had the impression of a pack going after a woman sitting on the ground, crying with her daughter.” “The saddest thing was that people were shouting ‘go home’, some were applauding the police,” she said. “Her daughter was crying.”
To make matters worse, if you look closely at the photos it is clear the woman isn’t even wearing the banned burkini at the beach she is simply wearing regular clothes. However the French authorities saw the headscarf and attacked and humiliated this woman simply for being Muslim.
The burkini ban is just another part of a long list of Islamophobia in France as hate crimes against Muslims in France have tripled since the terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo magazine. According to official figures more than 400 incidents of an “Islamophobic” nature, including assaults, harassment and criminal damage, were reported to the authorities in 2015, up from 133 in the previous year. Highlighting how dangerous it can be to live as a Muslim in France.
Despite what French officials say it is clear that the burkini ban is not about promoting a secularist society but it is simply about removing the right to religious freedom for Muslims in France, as the Imam of Florence, Izzedin Elzir, proved on Thursday by posting a photo on Facebook of habit-wearing nuns splashing around on the beach, fully covered. As well as this in the UK, the burkini was brought to public attention when Nigella Lawson wore the garment while holidaying in Australia in 2011. These incidents have made it clear that the West is only willing to uphold religious freedom for those of a certain skin tone and a certain religion.
The enforcement of this burkini ban is a gross exercise in humiliation motivated by Islamophobia and misogyny, because if the police really wanted to enforce such a law they could have asked the woman to leave the beach instead they chose to embarrass her publicly in front of onlookers and her child by forcing her to remove items of her clothing.
Some of those in support of the burkini ban, have argued that in the wake of an increase in terrorist attacks these harsh actions are necessary to combat Islamic extremism but how do we properly combat extremism by attacking and excluding innocent members of society? In addition banning the burkini, as a way to combat extremism is highly offensive as it implies that French Muslims were not also deeply affected by these terrorist attacks.
After the Nice attack and the Charlie Hebdo killings, the whole world came together to pray for France, but less than a year later, France has enforced a law that ostracizes 10% of the French population.
Forcing woman to undress is equally as disgusting as forcing women to cover up, because in both situations you are stripping these woman of the right to their own bodies. France and the rest of the West that have stated silent and allowed these injustices to continue, are just as bad as those militant and oppressive regimes of the countries we are so quick to condemn. The irony is many feminists in the West will argue vehemently for a woman’s right to ‘free the nipple’ and wear whatever she wants, yet many of these same Western feminists are silent when a Muslim woman is stripped of her right to cover up.