We register our protest when ultra-conservative enforcement officers take down posters of a model who is not wearing a tudung in Kota Bharu. We see it as an infringement of non-Muslims’ rights when a shop owner was fined over a poster featuring Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai, which we do not see one bit objectionable.
What about when armed French police confronted a woman on a beach in Nice and made her remove some of her clothing because there is ban on the burkini? The burkini is a full-body swimsuit designed according to Islamic standards of modest dressing.
Do we stay silent over this infraction of religious rights because it is not happening in our backyard? Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, said civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. To quote another activist, Desmond Tutu, if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
The French argument against the burkini is that it is “in accordance with the first articles of the constitution,” and that “the state of emergency and the recent Islamist attacks in Nice would indicate that wearing distinctive clothing on the beach other than the usual swimming costume is, in such a context, far more than a sign of religious observance.”
How did the burkini and the burka become a political symbol of radicalism? It is even more shocking that the authorities see it as a sign of allegiance to ISIS and subscribing to fundamentalism.
The choice of wearing a tudung, burka and burkini lies with the individual. If a person chooses them as a sign of their religious affiliation, it is within their right. They can’t be denied the right to adhere to their religious standards and communal expectations.
It is nonetheless a sign of rising conservatism, but society cannot reject this trend as it is the right of the individual to be conservative in his or her beliefs, dressing and other approaches in life. At the same time, the more conservative among us don’t have the right to dictate the way others dress as well.
Authorities in several other French towns have also implemented the ban on the Burkini, citing concerns about religious clothing in the wake of recent terrorist killings in the country. France wants to restrict religion to the private sphere, but it should allow religious practices and rules to be observed.
These are the rulings of the mayor of Cannes:
· “Access to beaches and for swimming is banned to any person wearing improper clothes that are not respectful of good morals and secularism.”
· “Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order.”
· The infringement is punishable with a fine of €38 (RM172)
· The ban remains in place until Aug 31, 2016