The burkini has been one of the most talked about things this week.
Judges claim that the ban against burkinis is "necessary, appropriate and proportionate", while they went on to describe the seemingly offending garment as a "provocation exacerbating tensions" at a time where France has suffered seriously from attacks by "Islamic" terrorists.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls even referred to the burkini as a sign of "the enslavement of women", and that it supports the notion that women are "impure and that they should therefore be totally covered".
The forceful removal of the burkini, followed by statements from various French officials, has sparked a fierce debate between Islamic and Western societies, and has many people questioning France's stance of secularism, which is designed to converge all ethnicities, races and genders under the umbrella of French citizenship rather than single people out on the basis of their religion.
Following the recent line of attacks on Britain, Belgium and France, their hostility towards Muslims in general isn’t surprising. I, a Muslim living in a Muslim country, at times feel concerned for my safety at the hands of someone, who equates my religion with the destruction of everything and anything that doesn’t adhere to a certain set of laws. The only difference between France and me lies in the source of our fear. I fear the people who have twisted Islam into an interpretation of their own desires or are ignorant about it all together, using it as a cover to do whatever they want all while defaming a religion, while France, in the light of recent events, fears Islam itself.
When Muslim communities live in European societies and reap the benefits offered to them by a democratic government, it becomes their responsibility to live in a way that upholds the dynamics of the very society they benefit from. Muslims living and thriving in European societies should know that with the liberty of freedom, comes the obligation for tolerance. France was not built on misogyny, ignorance or tolerance, rather it was built on the foundation of liberty and equal rights for all. Likewise, France, like every other state, should find a way to combat terrorism without putting the freedom of innocent Muslims at stake.
The burkini is not a political statement or a means to make the wearer feel enslaved or the viewer offended. The burkini, like every other piece of garment, is a choice. A choice to be able to have fun at the beach without jeopardising your religious beliefs. Just like wearing a short skirt doesn’t mean that a woman is 'asking for it', being fully clothed doesn’t mean a woman is oppressed.
Women feeling enslaved or liberated by clothes or their lack thereof is a personal preference. When we speak against 'slut-shaming' every time Kim Kardashian wears 'too little', it becomes our unspoken duty to speak up whenever someone is being persecuted for covering 'too much'. Because we know. We know that liberation and empowerment translate differently for Kim and an average hijabi, but does that make the rights of either of them any less valid?
The fourth wave of feminism is entirely based around and encourages women to pursue their lives in ways which appeal to them as an individual. It has brought the burgeoning of ideals that a woman can be anything she wishes to be; a crop-top loving plus-size woman, a woman who tattoos freckles onto her face, or a woman whose worth is never underestimated.
We live in a beautiful world right now. A world that promotes the rhetoric of tolerance and encourages women to embrace every essence of their being, but somehow our ideals are exclusive. The brush that paints us all as feminists dries up when it comes to Muslim women.
I, as a Muslim woman understand that modesty in religion is the highest form of empowerment. It is a choice. Asking a Muslim woman to remove her garb is the very definition of religious intolerance and oppression. Do you still really believe that you have done a service by subjecting this woman to such emotional trauma?
The author is based in Islamabad, Pakistan.