On Provocations Exacerbating Tensions

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France's preposterous and insanely offensive burkini ban - wherein The State has decided what Muslim women should/shouldn't wear at the beach "to protect the population,” which evidently doesn't include them - stumbles on in legal limbo. The uproar began after the resort town of Villeneuve-Loubet passed a ban on the flowing outfit,  designed by an Australian Muslim woman to allow women of faith to swim comfortably, to "ensure security." Town officials argued the burkini was “liable to offend the religious convictions or non-convictions of other users of the beach” and “be felt as a defiance or provocation exacerbating tensions" in a community still reeling from the nearby Nice terrorist attack. Dozens of other towns along the French Riviera quickly followed suit, citing "hygiene" and "religious proselytising" concerns posed by "an Islamic garment" that does not "respect good customs and secularism" and "refers to an allegiance to terrorist movements which are at war with us."

The uproar got louder last week when four armed French police officers forced a Muslim woman on the beach in Nice to remove some of her clothes as her daughter cried and beachgoers watched; some got right into the racist spirit of things by hurling the tired but ever-popular "Go back to your country" tirade at her. Soon after, France's highest administrative court overruled Villeneuve-Loubet's ban, effectively arguing that mindless fear is a lousy reason to pass a law that imposes "serious and blatantly illegal infringements on fundamental freedoms" - to which mayors in most of the towns responded, Naaah, we're going to do it anyway.

Many people around the world have raised excellent objections to a ban they say is racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic and counter to the basic tenets of a democracy: It turns Muslim women into the "other," it reduces women to unthinking objects in an ideological war, it publicly shames and humiliates women for being who they are, it stupidly insults one form of clothing while accepting others - wetsuits, nuns' outfits - akin to it, it perpetuates the notion that men have the power to decide what women should do with their bodies, and besides since when are men, who can't even get it together to flush, the arbiters of hygiene? For some, it also echoes the violent civil rights "wade-ins" in 1960s Mississippi, when black people on the beach represented a challenge to the racial social order of the day.

Predictably, some of the racist rhetoric supporting the ban is pretty hysterical: What's with all this "pandering" to "multi-culturalism" when Sharia law is "slowly and insidiously" taking over and women have been "forced into ugly  repressive garments by a bunch of medieval misogynists (who) despise our freedoms" and when we challenge them "it ends up making us look intolerant" when, really, we're not, nope, it's those heathens' fault. 

Our favorite response is the quite brilliant letter from one Henry Stewart of London, published in The Guardian. He writes, "No woman in a burqa (or a hijab or a burkini) has ever done me any harm. But I was sacked (without explanation) by a man in a suit. Men in suits mis-sold me pensions and endowments, costing me thousands of pounds. A man in a suit led us on a disastrous and illegal war. Men in suits led the banks and crashed the world economy. Other men in suits then increased the misery to millions through austerity. If we are to start telling people what to wear, maybe we should ban suits."

As Jesska Opal tweets, "I like you Henry, you alright."

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Black people want to use the beach in Biloxi in 1960.

 Nuns already can.

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So can protesting bikers.

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And wearers of the Chinese facekini.

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And scuba divers.

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But not her (on the right)

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Or them.

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