More prejudices than burkini ban

New Zealand born Lamia Iman claims that we are fooling ourselves if we think New Zealand is a tolerant society.

To an extent at least she is right. There has been intolerance and prejudice expressed (and set in law in some cases) against Chinese, Irish, German,English, Dutch, Japanese, Pacific Island, Asian, Chinese, South African, Somalian, Maori etc throughout our history of occupation.

RNZ: Balking at burkini bans misses nearer prejudices

In response to recent terrorist attacks on French soil, several towns have banned the burkini – swimwear often worn by Muslim women and people avoiding the sun.

This week, New Zealand responded by putting a burkini on the runway at New Zealand Fashion Week.

We Kiwis may pat ourselves on the back for our small act of defiance and its representation of our tolerant society but we would only be fooling ourselves.

Islamophobia is on the rise in the Western world and Muslims and ethnic minorities who “look Muslim” are feeling the brunt of it. New Zealand is certainly not immune.

There are genuine concerns in New Zealand about the potential risks from Islamic radicals, but we have to take care not to over-react to something that hasn’t happened, and we should take care not to ostracise many people in New Zealand for the actions of some on the other side of the world.

Islamophobia is a confronting term that doesn’t encourage better understanding, it isd more likely to entrench opposing views.

We have blamed Chinese immigrants for the housing crisis, barred a woman from applying for a job because she wore a hijab, defaced the billboard of a Sikh candidate running for City Council with “ISIS”, and have barely increased our refugee quota in response to a massive crisis in Syria.

Do we really deserve that pat on the back?

In general yes I think New Zealand deserves some credit but we are far removed from the heat of the problems in the Middle east and Europe, and there have been notable signs of intolerance.

New Zealand actually has a party in Parliament called New Zealand First.

One of its MPs Richard Prosser suggested back in 2013, well before Brexit or Donald Trump’s presidential bid, that Muslim men should not be welcome to travel on Western airlines.

He eventually had to apologise, conceding most Muslims were not terrorists, but then suggested most terrorists were Muslims – despite FBI figures showing non-Muslims make up 94 percent of terrorist attacks in the US.

Muslims make up 0% of terrorist attacks in New Zealand – ironically considering the burkina issue in France at present the most publicised terrorist attack here was done by the French government.

The party’s leader Winston Peters has since called for immigrants to be interviewed “to check their attitude” if they come from countries who “treat their women like cattle”, while ACT’s David Seymour has called for refugees to have to literally sign up to “Kiwi values”.

Both might be talking around race and religion to escape accusations of bigotry, but there is no doubt they refer to Muslims.

To an extent at least they are referring to Muslims, or at least addressing concerns of people who target Muslims.

The primary effect of the burkini ban in France is not reduced terrorism or liberation of women – it is removal of Muslim women from public spaces.

That’s an important point. Some in France claim that the burkini is a sign of the oppression of women with no proof that the women wearing them feel oppressed, but banning the wearing of (targeted) traditional clothing in public may well deter some women from appearing in public. As does public mass blaming.

This might not be successful as it gets tested in the courts but if it were, it would only further marginalize the Muslim community, which can only lead to more radicalization.

It may lead to more radicalisation, but it is at least likely to marginalise Muslim women and children.

Islamic clothing is wrapped in cultural, national, religious, and gendered connotations and the effect is marginalization of women but also Muslims in general, especially non-white Muslims.

It doesn’t matter that nuns can go to the beach or that people can still wear wet suits. What matters is the racial association with Muslims devalues all who don’t fall into the narrow white definition of a “liberated woman”.

A different angle to this is that in New Zealand there have been claims that females wearing too few clothes puts them at risk of sexual assaults so they should dress more safely. Damned if they clad, damned if they don’t.

North and South magazine in its June issue covered refugees and Muslims in New Zealand, but the cover had a menacing photo subtly equating the niqab to something sinister and dangerous with the headline “Radical Islam”.

Nobody has a problem with a white woman in Wellington covering up from head to toe on a cold July morning as the wind and rain comes in from all directions.

There were many heavily clad people at the rugby test in Wellington last night, many wearing highly visible symbols of their culture.

But a Muslim woman is somehow seen as a threat to society by virtue of her modest clothing choices.

 

Court rules burkini ban illegal

France’s highest court the State Council has ruled that a ban on wearing burkinis in one French resort town is illegal. This has inflamed debate – something that ISIS is probably happy to see.

The Telegraph: Burkini ban ruled illegal in France – prompting right-wing backlash and vow from towns to ignore it

Burkini bans in French resorts are illegal, France’s highest administrative court ruled on Friday in a landmark judgement that comes amid heated debate about the place of Islam.

The State Council upheld a challenge by human rights groups which argued that the ban in the Riviera resort of Villeneuve-sur-Loubet infringed personal freedoms in a ruling that is likely to set a legal precedent for 29 other towns that have banned the garment.

The ban “constituted a serious and manifestly illegal infringement of fundamental liberties, ” the State Council said in its judgement.

That doesn’t surprise me at all. It was a ridiculous reactionary way to try and deal with a big issue – Islam related terrorism – with a measure that impinged on the rights of innocent people.

Patrice Spinosi, a lawyer for the Human Rights League, said the decision to “suspend” the ban would also apply to the other 29 French towns.

But the problem looks set to continue.

The mayor of Sisco, in Corsica, vowed to defy the State Council’s ruling and maintain the ban in his town.

“This judgement does not affect us here because we had a fight over it (the burkini),” said Ange-Pierre Vivoni, referring to a brawl on a beach in Sisco on August 13 which preceded the ban. 

Nicolas Sarkozy, the former conservative president, demanded a nationwide burkini ban as he placed Islam, immigration and security at the heart of his campaign to win back power from the Socialists in elections next year.

The Socialist prime minister, Manuel Valls, backed the bans, describing the burkini as a symbol of the “enslavement of women”, but stopped short of calling for a national ban.

Opponents of the bans said they fuelled a racist political agenda as the election campaign kicks off.

So it is a political as well as a religious football – a toxic football.

However, with France on edge after a series of Islamist attacks, a poll suggested that two-thirds of French people support burkini bans.

That doesn’t make it right or fair for a minority.

Many politicians argued that the burkini could not be tolerated under France’s secular constitution because it was a symbol of the oppression of women.

Forcing women to undress in public is oppressive.

What if the women are exercising their right to their own choice? I doubt there is any evidence that women are being forced against their will to wear burkinis.

Religion and public life are strictly separated in France, which was the first European country to ban the Islamic full-face veil in 2010.

This problem has been festering for decades.

France and the veil – the dark side of the law

In 2004, France introduced the law on “secularity and conspicious religious symbols in schools” which banned wearing conspicuous religious symbols in French public primary and secondary schools. Its supporters argued that this was keeping with the long-established principle of laïcité – the separation of Church and State – but it was clear to all that Muslim girls were the principal target of the law.

Jean Baubérot, a historian and an expert in the sociology of religion, is the only member of the Commission Stasi who abstained from the vote recommending a ban. He remembers the isolated case that sparked the scarf controversy in 1989, when three girls were suspended for refusing to remove their scarves in class in Creil.

“Then,” he says, “the Conseil d’Etat issued a judgment ruling that proselytism didn’t lie in someone’s clothing but in someone’s behaviour. I didn’t agree with the shift It essentialises religion and prevents thinking. Based on the way a person dresses we peremptorily imagine the way she lives. To me, this seemed naïve and even obscurantist.”

This latest court ruling is unlikely to calm down a very divisive issue. Terrorists aim to create division and ignite animosity.

 

 

 

Beachwear bull

There is international commentary on the dress of Muslims after a Muslim woman was forced to remove clothes at a beach in France.

Guardian: French police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach following burkini ban

Photographs have emerged of armed French police confronting a woman on a beach and making her remove some of her clothing as part of a controversial ban on the burkini.

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The photographs emerged as a mother of two also told on Tuesday how she had been fined on the beach in nearby Cannes wearing leggings, a tunic and a headscarf.

Her ticket, seen by French news agency AFP, read that she was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism”.

What is more oppressive, a person wearing clothes due to religious beliefs, or laws forcing dress standards on one religion?

Do they also ban Sikh turbans?  It is highly ironic that people are being forced by law to wear less on beaches in France “respecting good morals”

The Daily Beast asks Where’s the Outrage Over Nun Beachwear?

Go to any public beach in Italy and chances are you’ll eventually see a woman wearing a veil and long skirt. But she likely won’t be a Muslim in a version of the controversial burqini. She will almost certainly be a Catholic nun in her summer habit either watching children in her care or, God forbid, just enjoying some sun, which is considered a human right here in Italy, where the sea defines the majority of the borders.  

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Some Nuns are required by their religion to wear certain clothing. As far as I’m aware in most modern countries Muslim women wear what they want to wear.

How immoral is this:

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The French intolerance is being challenged and causing divisions up to Government level.

Guardian: France’s burkini ban row divides government as court mulls legality

France’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, has clashed with his education minister amid growing divisions in the government over the controversial burkini bans on some beaches.

The education minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, one of the Socialist government’s leading feminist voices, was highly critical of the growing number of burkini bans.

France’s highest court – the state council – began hearing arguments on Thursday from the Human Rights League and an anti-Islamophobia group, which are seeking to reverse a decision by the southern town of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, to ban the full-body swimsuits.

Vallaud-Belkacem, who was born into a Muslim family in rural Morocco before moving to France aged four, told Europe 1 radio the proliferation of burkini bans was not welcome.

She said: “I think it’s a problem because it raises the question of our individual freedoms: how far will we go to check that an outfit is conforming to ‘good manners’?”

She warned that the bans had “let loose” verbal racism.

But moments after Vallaud-Belkacem spoke, her comments were flatly contradicted by Valls, who reiterated his support for mayors who have banned the garments.

Asked if the decrees amounted to racism, Valls said: “No, that’s a bad interpretation.” He said the full-body swimwear represented “the enslavement of women”.

Are Muslim women complaining of ‘enslavement’ in France due to what they wear? It is particularly ironic that authorities and politicians are trying to dictate what they can and can’t wear.

The various mayoral decrees do not explicitly use the word burkini; instead they ban “beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation”, citing reasons such as the need to protect public order, hygiene or French laws on secularism.

Laws on secularism that single out one religion?

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I don’t know if he or she is Muslim or French. Should it matter?

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Authorities in France claim that some beachwear is provocative, but their narrow intolerance is what is provocative.

And two things it has provoked is ridicule and protest. Deservedly.