Burkinis, A History Lesson


It’s Assumption Day.  That’s the celebration of Mary, mother of Jesus, rising to heaven.  It is a national holiday in France.  Mary was an Arab.  All the pictures show her in a shawl and veil wearing sandals.  She would have been shy about showing her body at the seashore. 

But this week, Mary would have been sent home from the French Riviera for being too modest, too religious, and too provocative, because several local governments decided to protect the laity from expressions of religion on the beach.   Mary, by default, would have been required to go topless, wear a string thong, a bikini, or perhaps a one-piece swimsuit.

The governments made exceptions.  A priest wearing a clerical collar would not be a problem, nor his counterpart nun in her habit.  Jews could wear yamikas, tzitzits with fringe, or black hats.  Jewish women in skirts with their hair covered would be welcomed.  Hindu women in sarees or shalwars would be acceptable, along with the men in kurtas and turbans.  Christian or atheist tourists with fair skin could wear pants and long sleeve shirts on the beach.  Catholic crosses, Nazi tattoos, and all types of skull and crossbones would be permitted.  These people would be expressing “our” culture, the governmental representatives said.

“Our” culture is code for racism and nationalism.   It is the polite way of saying “If you are an Arab, I hate you.”

A higher truth affirms that “our” culture is based on tolerance and inclusion, not on a superior, controlling race or religion.   

As Lafayette and Jefferson said in the 1st Article of the Declaration of the Rights of Men and of the Citizen, “Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else. . ..”  They made it so simple and clear.   Local governments wanting to protect their tiny realms from “non-Western dress” have forgotten this primary principle.

Article 3 states that “. . . All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction. . ..”   The same document in article 10 says, “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views. . ..” 

And the French Constitution states, “France . . . shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs.”  In other words, freedom of religion is a cornerstone of the republic in France, just as in the USA. 

Such freedom is our true culture, and it applies to people of all colors, heritages, religions, genders, and capacities.  The French sum up this philosophy in their motto, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” demanding the end of power based on hypocrisy and intolerance.  This motto, etched into history by the blood of freedom fighters, should not be carelessly tossed aside because of fear, egotism, and prejudice, not even in a time of war and terrorism.

ISIS and Daesh wage war with the USA and Europe.   This does not involve the Muslim woman who has taken a small step toward emancipation by finding a modest costume which allows her to observe her religion and also enjoy the Mediterranean Sea.  In fact, it does not include most of the 2,038,000,000 Muslims in the world.   That is 28% of the human population.  For comparison, Jews form 0.22% of the world population.

An interdiction against wearing a burkini on the beach in order to protect the laity from religion?  On Assumption Day, when the streets are lined with pilgrims marching toward a religious statue?    Next it will be Internment Camps for Arabs, as the USA did in WWII for Japanese citizens.  Or worse, we will build gas chambers for Muslims.  And people will again practice their religions underground, in hiding, afraid for their lives.


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