The war on terror should never begin inside a woman's wardrobe. We live in such a ridiculous world that Europeans, Canadians, Americans, Muslims, Christians and even atheists are splitting hairs over what women should be allowed to wear at the beach. In what smacks of utter daftness, Muslim women enjoying the sun and the sand in the French Rivera now have to show skin to prove their secular credentials.
The bans largely affect beaches on the French Rivera, but the controversy intensified after pictures emerged of three male policemen confronting a startled Muslim woman in Nice, making her remove her top. Many were shocked as more images did the rounds of social media: Women in Nice and Cannes now being harassed by overzealous policemen even though sometimes they weren't even wearing full-body swimsuits known as burkinis.
France's highest administrative court is going to decide on the beach fines on Friday. The court has been asked by a human rights group and an anti-Islamophobia association to overturn the beach bans imposed by 26 towns on women in burkinis.
Women dumped tonnes of sand outside the French Embassy in London on Thursday for an impromptu beach party to protest the burkini bans. Women in America were also quick to show solidarity with “anyone forced to wear anything, anywhere by anyone”.
"Women should be allowed to wear what they want. The decision should not be up to men, police, or even society at large. And that should be the case for all women, no matter where they live — whether it is Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran or the French Riviera," wrote CNN columnist Frida Ghitis.
"The places where women face the harshest, most oppressive restrictions on that basic expression of human dignity — the right to wear the clothes you choose — is not France or other parts of Western Europe. It is in countries ruled by theocratic regimes; countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, and territories controlled by the so-called Islamic State or IS...It is a travesty that we are even discussing a violation of that right in France, one of the freest, most liberal countries on earth. Indeed, the ban on the burkini has handed a victory to Islamists and to other Muslims who want to restrict women's freedoms. And it has set back the cause of women's empowerment," wrote Ghitis.
France should do some soul-searching as the pictures of policemen confronting women requiring them to take off their burkinis is going to be damaging. The "covert racism" has already sparked sit-ins with protestors waving signs reading "Hey Mister, Hands off my Sister."
Different reasons have been given for the bans in more than a dozen French communes and cities but several officials have made a link to a recent wave of IS-inspired terror attacks. The Nice tribunal ruled on Monday that the ban in Villeneuve-Loubet was “necessary, appropriate and proportionate” to prevent public disorder after a succession of jihadi attacks in France.
It said the burkini was liable to offend the "religious convictions or (religious) non-convictions of other users of the beach,” and “be felt as a defiance or a provocation exacerbating tensions felt by” the community.
Separately, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been hailed as a feminist for batting for burkinis. On Monday, he defended individual rights and freedoms while touting cultural diversity and tolerance when asked about the controversy swirling in France. Trudeau called for "the respect of individual rights and choices. This, he said, should be "at the top of public discourse and debate."