Rachel Woodlock writes: Men forcing women to remove their clothes is never going to look like freedom, equality, and encouraging “good morals”, no matter the justification. There are now 15 French towns that have targeted beach-loving Muslim women in the wake of July’s terrorism-linked murders in Nice and Normandy. When the inevitable pictures of French police enforcing the burkini ban emerged this week, we saw not an effective counter-terrorism measure, but a clumsy attempt to push back against Islam’s visibility in France.
Keen to win over anti-immigration supporters from the right in his forthcoming bid for the French presidency, the former head of state Nicolas Sarkozy jumped in to the debate yesterday evening, claiming that burkinis are a sartorial prison and a “provocation” that supports radicalised Islam.
It’s a theme being repeated all over Europe, where the palpable fear of Islamic religiosity conflates its most extreme, violent and – as Charles Kurzman argues in his book The Missing Martyrs – rare form with the peaceable faith of ordinary Muslims. Yet we know from researching the lives of Muslims in western countries that most do not want to hide away in isolated ghettos, or abandon their cultural heritage and assimilate into invisibility. They want to find a happy balance between the two: adapting and integrating into western societies, and being acknowledged as fully contributing and worthy citizens in the nation states they call home. [Continue reading…]