French courts overturn burkini ban

As CNN reports, and as I expected, the French Council of State, an administrative court, has overturned the bans on “burkinis”—the full body coverings for beachgoing Muslim women—enacted in 15 French towns. What were these people thinking? Why would a burkini be banned but a full-body covering for a non-Muslim deemed okay if it were worn to prevent sunburn? What about wetsuits for surfers? The reason, of course, is that burkinis are a symptom of religion, and to many French people violate the national policy of laïcité, the absence of religious influence in government.

The French (and now two German schools) have also banned niqabs, or face coverings, as I reported yesterday. (That ban includes burqas, the cloth sack that invariably covers the face as well.) One can make an argument that those bans are more reasonable, as niqabs impede your ability to see another person’s face, essential in many circumstances. And the niquab bans have been upheld by the European Court of Human Rights. However, as opposed to French law, I’d favor banning niqabs in certain situations—schools, banks, government offices, and so on—rather than the existing complete ban of the garment in public. The French also ban the hijab (headscarf) in schools, a move that I favor so long as symbols of other faiths are also banned.

A lot has been made, and rightly so, of this photograph of a burkini-wearing Muslim woman being forced by police to remove her garment in Nice:


That’s a hideous picture from a liberal democracy; it’s simply shameful. As CNN adds:

Authorities in Nice say the officers were simply exercising their duties. Deputy Mayor Christian Estrosi denounced the photos, saying they put the officers in danger.

“I condemn these unacceptable provocations,” he said.

Online and in the streets, the bans have sparked protests and criticism around the world.

In London, demonstrators created a makeshift beach Thursday outside the French Embassy for a “Wear what you want beach party.”

Jenny Dawkins, a Church of England priest, told CNN she joined the protest after seeing a photo of the incident in Nice.

“I think it’s a frightening image,” she said. “I find it quite chilling to see an image of a woman surrounded by men with guns being told to take her clothes off.”

So the French government did the right thing, and I hope this will start a national conversation about the regulation of religious dress.

But we need that conversation in the U.S., too. That’s because the outrage by liberals against the burkini ban, exacerbated by that photo, misses some other “frightening images”, like these:


Taliban religious police beating a woman in Afghanistan. You can download a short clip of the beating here.

And here’s a video of the religious police in Iran:

Beside Iran and Afghanistan, there are Islamic religious police, enforcing sharia law, in Gaza, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia. As I’ve said before, it didn’t used to be this way: the forced covering of women, and policing of it (note that “policing” can be done by families and peers as well as state officials!) is largely an innovation of the 1980s, when several Muslim states became theocracies:


Google Image for yourselves using the captions of the pictures above, and you’ll see the point. These women didn’t choose to cover; they were forced to. When regulations weren’t in place, the women were pretty much uncovered.

My point? Yes, the burkini ban is ridiculous and unworthy of a liberal state. The French have rightly overturned it. But those people who are revulsed by the photo from Nice largely ignore the even worse fate that befalls women in Islamic countries who violate their countries’ dress codes. As Maajid Nawaz wrote yesterday, it’s entirely consistent to oppose burkini bans but decry the much greater oppression that befalls Muslim women in Muslim countries:

. . . it is simply an undeniable fact that most Muslim women judged and attacked around the world for how they dress are attacked by other Islamist and fundamentalist Muslims, not by non-Muslims. These are religious fanatics playing the Not Muslim Enough game.

I am a liberal. The headscarf is a choice. Let Muslim women wear bikinis or burkinis. Liberal societies have no business in legally interfering with the dress choices women make. I have consistently opposed the ban on face veils in France, just as I oppose their enforced use in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Outside of this legal debate, though, and as a reforming secular liberal Muslim, I reserve the right to question my own communities’ cultural traditions and taboos.

As a liberal, I reserve the right to question religious-conservative dogma generally, just as most Western progressives already do with Christianity. Yet with Muslims, Western liberals seem perennially confused between possessing a right to do something, and being right when doing it.

PuffHo, the biggest aggregator of Regressive Leftism, went into a dither about the burkini ban, publishing article after article about it on their virtue-flaunting website. A few screenshots of articles:

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Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 9.17.58 AM Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 9.17.16 AM Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 9.17.03 AM

But yet you’d be hard pressed to find on anything on PuffHo about the repression of women in Muslim countries. So strong is PuffHo’s coddling of faith that they simply cannot bear to discuss what Islam does to gays, atheists, and women in their theocracies. The first article above, for instance (click screenshot) mentions “the frightening reality of policing women’s bodies,” and yet contains no mention of the much more severe policing in Muslim countries. (Ironically, one of the tweets in that article shows a cartoon of religious policing in a Muslim country, but it goes unremarked.)

Is this a “dear Muslimah” argument I’m making, engaging in “whataboutery”? Maybe it’s easier to change clothing police in our own lands than it is in, say, Saudi Arabia, and that’s true. But the whole issue of Islamic oppression of women will be ignored unless we express the same anger aroused by the photograph in Nice to the greater oppression of Muslim women by other Muslims—and not just in Islamic countries, but in the West as well. The burkini, while it should be legal, is oppressive: a way for men to exercise control over women, seen as temptresses whose hair, or ankles, can drive men to uncontrollable lust. (Burkinis, by the way, would be illegal in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.)

So yes, call out the French extremism shown in the photo. A progressive liberalism demands that. But we have only a limited amount of anger and attention at our call, and we (and unthinking “progressives” like HuffPo) need to devote most of that to the true policers of women’s dress: Muslim ideologues. What we need to do is efface women’s feelings that they need to wear the burkini, hijab, niqab, and burqa—in all countries— so they can be “modest Muslims.” And to do that, we need to engage a religious dogma that leads, among other things, to policing of clothing. We can at the same time allow some religious veiling, the symptom of a religious misogyny, but still attack the disease that produces those symptoms.


  1. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    As big a fan as I am of the top-optional spots along the Côte d’Azur, I can conjure no interest capable of passing a straight-face test that French authorities can cite for compelling any woman to flash flesh beyond what she herself chooses.

    • Posted August 26, 2016 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      When in a Western country, I wouldn’t want to attend a beach where some women wear burkini. It would make me think of bombings and shootings. Of course, this is the purpose. Did you mention in which city that wonderful woman demonstrated her disrespect to the rules imposed by French authorities? Oh yes, Nice, the scene of the latest atrocity.

      • eric
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        I very much doubt their purpose in wearing a burkini is to make you think of bombings. They’re normal women, trying to live normal lives and enjoy a normal day out, while being oppressed by their own culture (and probably their own husbands and families). Let’s not make the victims into aggressors.

        • Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

          Not all were victims. The woman in Nice, who went to the beach in burkini after the ban, was definitely an aggressor.

          “Take this veiled woman. She is an admirable woman. She is courageous and dignified, devoted to her family and her children. Why bother her? She harms no one. Even those women who wear the total, all-encompassing veil do not generally use their clothing to hide bombs (as certain people were claiming when the law to ban the burqa was being discussed). They too will do nothing wrong. So why go on whining about the wearing of the veil and pointing the finger of blame at these women? We should shut up, look elsewhere and move past all the street-insults and rumpus. The role of these women, even if they are unaware of it, does not go beyond this.”

          A textbook example: Marwa el-Sherbini, who was murdered in Germany by a man whom she wanted to ruin because he offended her over her headscarf.

          • somer
            Posted September 2, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

            I really can’t see how someone in a burkini can be linked to bombs or guns or how Marwa el-Sherbini should not have taken that man to court for abusing and insulting her over her appearance

            • Posted September 3, 2016 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

              In the West, Islam-specific garment is a reliable indicator of supremacist and violent attitudes. Just look at photos of wives and female relatives of terrorists. Often, you can trace radicalization by appearance and aggravation of such garments (e.g. Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, Tafsheen Malik).
              I was in Brussels in the autumn of 2014. It was strange to look at the typical Western European urban planning and to walk among women in headscarves. I visited some shops and cafes frequented by the Bulgarian community in Brussels. I was happy to see some Muslim-heritage employees there, all with 100% Western clothing and haircut. I’d never know of their Muslim background if I hadn’t read their name badges. Apparently, they didn’t intend to become “good Muslims”, they were rather distancing themselves from the latter.

              After that, I was not surprised to hear about Islamists terror acts in Brussels. I had seen first-hand that the attitude was there.

            • Posted September 3, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

              I do not approve dragging people to court over minor incidents, especially if the laws give an unfair advantage to the plaintiff.

              Marwa el-Sherbini was offended over her headscarf in a park by a man named Alex Wiens whom she had asked to free a swing for her child. Other people intervened, police arrived, made a protocol, cautioned Wiens, but didn’t see any need to proceed further.

              Then, el-Sherbini filed a lawsuit. I cannot see any reasonable motivation to try to ruin a person for verbally offending you (people are rightfully indignant when Trump makes steps in this direction). To me, the only explanation is the vindictive attitude of a true believer offended by a dhimmi. If Wiens were a non-violent person (as everyone thought, including the authorities, for they didn’t even search him for weapons), he would be punished and we would never hear anything of his case. We do not know how many similar cases have happened in Europe. The only reason we’ve heard of this one was because he turned to be a murderous psychopath.

              Some said that el-Sherbini was advised to press charges by her friends. If so, I think they were not good friends. Some said also that Wiens continued to harass her. However, the respectable Spiegel reported that they lived in different neighborhoods. So I think these alleged later insults were invented to whitewash el-Sherbini.

              One of the insults delivered by Wiens was “Islamist”. El-Sherbini worked for opening of an Islamic center in Dresden (it was opened later and named after her). To me, this perfectly fits the definition of Islamist. It seems to me wrong to sue people for calling you Islamist while being one.

              This said, I do not justify el-Sherbini’s murder at all. I am against murder in principle, not just of people whom I like.

              • somer
                Posted September 7, 2016 at 8:51 am | Permalink

                Marwa El-Sherbini was a pharmacist and outstanding student (studied at Max Plank institute) She only wore a headscarf. Alex Wiens was long term unemployed. When Wiens repeatedly refused to pay the fine,El-Sherbini admittedly agreed to push for custodial sentence over the matter, which seems, to me disproportionate, though he did say extremely dehumanising things in the interim – that might lead someone who had been periodically subjected to low level abuse from others and then this extreme and threatening behaviour in the presence of one’s child and subsequently – to want to press charges.

                Screaming abuse at one for no reason in public in a park in front of children is severe harassment, and she was probably not unfamiliar with occasional abuse. In her situation I would also ring the police on the scene. A bit over the top was the failed launch in October 2009, of a criminal investigation for involuntary manslaughter and denial of assistance against the judge who presided over the July trial, and against the president of the regional court.
                Her seeking to set up an Islamic centre is no indication of extremism – such centres vary in stance.

              • Posted September 7, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

                It was el-Sherbini’s husband who was accepted to make his PhD’s thesis at Max Plank. To me, this illustrates one of the problematic loophole in EU migration policy: a PhD student is allowed to apply for permanent residency and to bring his wife, who also applies. Once upon a time, international students were expected to return home after completion of the study.

                To me, Islamists are those who spread Islam. Some of them are extremists, most are not. El-Sherbini came to Germany, being perfectly aware that this is a secular country with Christian tradition, and worked to set up an Islamic center in a city where most locals didn’t want one. If you migrate to a country where your culture is unwanted, and work actively to spread it instead of leaving it behind, I think the “low-level abuse” you may endure is your fault. Headscarves are outside the Western dress code, and every dress code is based on unwanted consequences for those who violate it.

                It is true that el-Sherbini was highly educated. To me, it makes things worse. If an uneducated woman from an Allah-forgotten village in Upper Egypt wears a headscarf even after emigrating, I may pity her; for she was indoctrinated that “immodest” dressing puts women in Hell. But I wonder about the motivation of a pharmacist, formerly an outstanding athlete, to wear one despite the host country’s dress code. I do not blame her for calling the police in the park (if she was who called the police), but her relentless attitude after the incident was over makes me suspect that she wore a headscarf to identify herself as a member of a growing supremacist group which bosses the indigenous Europeans around. Like the lady in a burkini on the Nice beach.

                The attitude of German judiciary in this case is perplexing to me. In my world, when a defendant is sentenced to a fine and refuses to pay it, it is withheld from his income – in this case, it would be welfare or unemployment benefit. Instead, the German state aimed to imprison Wiens for verbal abuse, and for his views (while letting rapists roam free). A democratic state should never try to reform an individual by force. This is inhumane, a prerogative of totalitarian states. And, as the case shows, it is not as efficient as it seems.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        There are a great many things that I don’t like to see in public. They offend me.

        So what? I don’t have a right to not be offended. And if you don’t want to attend such a beach, then don’t go to it.

        I detest burkini/hijab/burka dress. I also dislike the ridiculous garb of Catholic priests. But I’m unwilling to introduce religious fashion laws in any Western country. The very thought reminds one of the evils of Islamic theocracy.

        • GBJames
          Posted August 26, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

          Erf. And sub.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted August 26, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          I agree GBJames. I find skinny moustaches offensive, and I really do mean offensive, not just that I don’t like them. (I won’t bore you with why. You probably wouldn’t think much of my reason, which is fair enough.) But I would never tell anyone to shave theirs off, or otherwise even comment on it. I don’t have a right to not be offended.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted August 26, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

            In that case, guess you wouldn’t care much for “a pencil-thin mustache, the Boston Blackie kind.”

            How about a two-toned Ricky Ricardo jacket, and an autographed picture of Andy Devine?🙂

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted August 26, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

              No, not a fan, though the ones I’m thinking of are skinnier than that. I quite like Errol Flynn.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted August 26, 2016 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

                Four generations of women (and, no doubt, a lot of men, too) quite like Mr. Flynn.

                Not a fan of the Jimmy Buffett song? (I’m in Key West right now, so am feeling a strong Buffett vibe myself.)🙂

        • Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

          There are religious fashion laws in Western countries, they are just not so apparent. If I go around the streets naked, I guess I’d be apprehended for “public order violation”. Though nudists, unlike Islamists, have never bombed or short anyone in the name of nudism.

          • GBJames
            Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

            Laws against public nudity are “religious fashion laws”? And so it is perfectly legit to criminalize Jews wearing yarmulkes?

            You’re stretching things there.

            • Posted August 27, 2016 at 1:38 am | Permalink

              As usual, we are having the problem that Islam is passing under the title of “religion”, like e.g. Judaism, but Islam differs sharply from Judaism and other religions in its destructive potential.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted August 27, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

              Laws against public nudity are “religious fashion laws”?

              Some (some) of the more lunatic fringe of the nudist movement have definitely espoused religious opinions from the wilder reaches of delusion, but to be honest, most of the such that I’ve hung around with over the years seem to have had their tongues firmly implanted in their cheeks. These days they’d probably be wearing colanders and feeling up the Noodly Appendage (PBUI). But most of the nudists I’ve known do it for perfectly secular reasons, including pissing off the parents, ex-partner, or anyone who just happens to be passing.
              With the exception of some of the wilder branches of Wicca, I don’t know of any religions which seriously espouse nudity as a sacrament.

              And so it is perfectly legit to criminalize Jews wearing yarmulkes?

              If they’re wearing them for religious reasons, yes. Which of course raises evidential difficulties, if not impossibilities.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        But, Maya, that’s just the mirror image of the social-justice-warrior attitude we all pillory on this site — the claim that one somehow has a right never to be exposed to that which we offends us. The solution isn’t to ban what we find offensive; it’s to avoid it (e.g., if the sight of women in burkinis offends thee, find another beach).

        I gotta confess, the sight of two grown men cuddling gives me the willies (or used to; I’ve pretty much gotten accustomed to it by now). Doesn’t give me any right to stop gay guys from engaging in PDA. And it doesn’t even keep me from occasionally stopping by a gay pride rally to show support; it just stops me from staring.

        • Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          If enough people go to other beaches, the resort will lose money. Some mayors of resorts depending on tourist money apparently value this money more than the blessing to have fundamentalists exposing their fundamentalism on the beach. This is the reason why some resorts in Muslim countries ban burkini.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted August 26, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

            In South Florida, where I live, black folk were banned from swimming on Miami Beach through the 1960s. (Until 1949, the local beaches also posted “Gentile Only” signs.) The Miami Beach hoteliers made the same argument you’re making here — if they let “Negroes” on the Beach, their white clientele would go elsewhere.

            There was one dinky, pebbly little beach in Biscayne Bay where Negroes were allowed to swim in those days — on Virginia Key, around the corner from where Dade County incinerates its garbage. That was the only beach where Cassius Clay (later Muhammed Ali) could go swimming in South Florida when he was the reigning heavyweight boxing champion of the world.

            When my two sons were little and bugged me to take them to the beach, that’s where we’d head. Let them learn a little history, was the way I looked at it.

            • Posted August 28, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

              This is a shameful chapter of American history.
              However, I disagree with you that aversion to women in burkini is akin to aversion to black people. Women in burkini are disliked because of what they do, while black people were segregated because of who they were. An analog would be banning black people who wear gang gear or, let’s say, Black Lives Matter T-shirts. These days, a high school student named Mariah Havard was ordered by the principal to remove such a T-shirt. I think this is correct.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted August 28, 2016 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

                In Tinker v. Des Moines, the United States Supreme Court held that students have a First Amendment free-speech right to wear expressive clothing in school — in that case the right to wear black armbands protesting the US involvement in the Vietnam war.

        • somer
          Posted September 7, 2016 at 7:39 am | Permalink

          I dont agree with the french ban and the treatment of the woman on the nice beach. On a different topic I do, however think there is a right to maintain a position where we can control intake of cultures (I don’t mean block all intake of cultures) that mean to destroy liberal values. Principles are important but the underlying intent of whats valuable is whats matters – what actually works out in practice is given situations to reduce subordination/exploitation, increase opportunities, improve basic material wellbeing and health or else not increase ills. This is measured by HOW these things are likely to play out in given situations and by good intention not by high principle that doesnt care about outcome. I really don’t care about statues.

          Do Alouites deserve genocide? Al Jazeera Arabic. Dohar, Qatar, May 8, 2015

      • Davey
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        I held the door open for a woman in a niqab pushing a child in a pram. She didn’t explode.

        I could tell she smiled at me by her eyes.

      • Filippo
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        “When in a Western country, I wouldn’t want to attend a beach where some women wear burkini. It would make me think of bombings and shootings.”

        Would it be helpful if the local powers-that-be provided you a “trigger warning”?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

        I’m with you there, Maya. To my mind, wearing a burkini on the beach in Nice right now is a bit like walking through a black neighbourhood in a white sheet and pointy hat or wearing a swastika armband in a Jewish neighbourhood. It might be permitted by your ‘human rights’ but it’s pretty stupid.


      • Rambleale
        Posted August 27, 2016 at 3:34 am | Permalink

        If seeing a woman in a burkini makes you thing of ‘bombings and shooting’ then it would seem that you have a problem.

        Seriously have me reached the point where being any sign of musliminess is triggering?

        Whilst I totally reject due to your lack of any supporting evidence that the woman in question was trying to provok can I remind you that one of the great things about living in a liberal western democracy it that you can ‘demonstrate disrespect’.

        • Posted August 27, 2016 at 4:52 am | Permalink

          Yes of course it’s a provocation. I should like to know who the photographer was, how s/he happened to be there at that time, why the photographer does not want to be named and why the woman isn’t actually wearing a burkini: her arms are uncovered.

          Of course she should be allowed to wear what she wants at the beach and of course this is all a displacement debate when we know that the current spate of ‘lone wolf’ attacks are no such thing, and directed and micro-managed by ISIS. This is a trivial debate by comparison.

        • Posted August 28, 2016 at 9:44 am | Permalink

          Of course she was trying to provoke. Or you think that she hadn’t heard about the ban and just happened to have someone close by and ready to film the police intervention and post it? I have myself engaged in similar provocations, so I think I recognize the pattern.

  2. jaxkayaker
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Kudos to the judges who made this ruling. They should also have forced Nice to change its name to Not-Nice.

  3. nwalsh
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Other than losing to the Dodgers nothing much bothers me anymore, however if I ever saw a woman in a burka all bets are off.

    • Posted August 26, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to say here. You have never seen a woman in a burka? If you did, it would bother you more than your favorite baseball team losing to the Dodgers? Forgive me if there’s a joke in here that’s gone over my head.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Yes, all the arguments and debate about the dress codes and dress police are just side issues to the bigger issue and discussion they should be having. Why are women treated as second and third class citizens in the 21st century? When mid-evil culture makes it’s way into today’s western society and survives there, that takes a lot of apologizing. Huff finds a way to believe in both worlds and that is damaging.

    • rickflick
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      You put the issue very succinctly. Well done.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink


  5. Posted August 26, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    The only hideous thing I see in the picture from Nice is the female Islamist transgressor.

    This development, while predictable, shows the fatal flow of liberal democracies: authorities are convinced that it is their duty to let in large number of individuals with 7th century views, to continue letting in more after the first cohorts of them have created huge problems, and to let them freely exercise their 7th century behaviors until the entire society is taken over.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Vivre et laisser vivre, mon amie.

      • Posted August 26, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        This requires two sides.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 26, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          Absolutely. And if the Muzzies ever start agitating to ban haute couture, I’ll stand foursquare with les femmes Françaises.🙂

          • Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

            At that point, it will be too late for anything. Prof. Coyne is rightly indignant that leftists do not say a word about the mandatory covering of women in Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is also true, however, that we can protest this covering all we want, and nothing will change for the women in these countries.

        • Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

          All issues have more than two sides. Either/or, black/white thinking is not productive.

          In the current state of human bodies being so fat (mea culpa also), I would prefer not to see any of us nude. But, it’s a choice on the spectrum from totally unclothed to totally clothed. And, it’s not up to me to tell other people how to dress, or not. Or, for them to tell me.

          However, for purposes of legal documents, the photographs should depict the facial features of the actual person. In Oregon, I had to even remove my glasses for a drivers’ license photo.

    • eric
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      You’ve got a point – once the US let in Irish Roman Catholics, the whole country went to hell in a hand basket! They never assimilated, and to this day a whopping 1-5% of them still adhere to the backwards and misogynistic sexual taboos of their medieval Church. We must stop the Muslim exodus now, or 60 years from now the vast majority of 5% of their women will still be wearing burkhas!

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        Christ, I can smell the corned beef and cabbage from here.🙂

      • Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        As a resident of a European country that was under Muslim domination for 5 centuries and would still be if not for the intervention of Russia, I think you are joking with serious matters.

      • somer
        Posted September 2, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        But its really NOT analogous to Irish Catholics in the 19th and early 20th Centuries in America. Its a radically different culture and expectations, whose Quran is held to be literally the word of god, not inspired by god, and whose religious law is literally interpreted as law – or else the ruler can be overthrown. (Syafi Guidance of the Traveller etc) Islam is coming out of the moderate period imposed by the cold war, the collapse of the Ottoman empire and earlier western interference. That is the business of Muslims but much of Islamic extremism is part of a feature of Islam itself.

        Also the people wanting to enter Europe are unlike US Muslims – not coming and vetted as migrants with skills and eduction (and attitude and more pro West attitude that goes with that) for modern economy. Also huge influx admitted all at once spells becoming underclass because can’t deliver sufficient economic and social services to enable most of them to avoid this.

        Rural Islam is conservative Islam and this is simply not a form of religion that wants to adapt. Countries can cope with a relatively Small percentage of this as their population – but if you want more you have to be fairly certain they will want to integrate – and the left obstruct this. You have to be able to control this without being bullied by the left – yes a duty to take some but be able to control it. Otherwise you risk your own society being forced to abandon liberal values over time – either by regressing and reverting to a conservative Christian culture to retain your majority and not conceding to what has been allowed to become a very powerful and large minority – or by absorbing Islamic norms more and more.

      • somer
        Posted September 7, 2016 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        Irish Roman Catholics and English Protestants are, like it or not, actually pretty similar cultures, the vast majority of whose believers underwent pretty similar philosophical trajectories.

        Protestants prior to the 1960s were just as sexist and otherwise regressive.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Let this sink in. Perhaps imagine it on a Florida beach.

      Three men with guns are surrounding a woman and forcing her to take off her clothes in public because her outfit has been deemed illegal as it denotes her religion.

      Men with guns. Woman taking off her clothes. No one interferes. The situation is sick and has no place in a liberal democracy.

      Will Nice be denying nuns the right to sit on the beach in their habits anytime soon?

      • Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        I do not find this situation sick. As for whether it has a place in a liberal democracy – no, for the simple reason that once you let the democracy be infiltrated by individuals such as this woman, it dies.
        Nuns do not shoot and bomb people. Besides, do they sit on the beach? I have never seen one.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 26, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

          I dunno, Maya, sad to say, but I’m getting the sneaking suspicion you’d just as soon not have Muslims hanging out on the same beach (or maybe even the same country), regardless what they’re wearing.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted August 26, 2016 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

            I had that same suspicion about Maya, but I can see where she’s coming from.

            I do wonder if our liberal concern for the rights of burka-wearers would be matched by the burqa-wearers concern for our rights NOT to wear burqas, were they making the rules.

            That said, I do acknowledge there are millions of moderate Muslims who co-exist and cause no trouble (and get murdered by IS), but they are presumably not the ones who insist on wearing burqas on beaches.


          • Posted August 27, 2016 at 1:33 am | Permalink

            I have said before that I find the immigration policy of France (and other Western European countries, and now also USA and Canada) deeply mistaken.

            In the 1990s, the French ambassador in Bulgaria said, “We are doing you a service by not issuing you immigrant visas. If we allow you to immigrate, the best young people of Bulgaria would leave. Now, we are helping the country to retain its human potential.” I think this could be said in some other countries.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted August 27, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

              Mebbe so. But over here there’s a 130-year-old lady of French extraction who calls out to other countries’ tired and poor and huddled masses — calls out to the wretched human refuse teeming on other countries’ shores — and invites them to come to America to breathe free.

              And here’s the kicker: Even though she hangs out in New York harbor she’s swaddled in a full-length gown..

              A dangerous radical like that, we oughta deport the old gal back to France, I suppose.

              • Posted August 28, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink

                This lady reminds me of a joke about a soul who, on his way to Heaven, passed by Hell and saw a party going on. Heaven, in contrast, seemed dull, so the soul opted for Hell. The gates closed behind him, he saw tortured souls all around, and two devils dragged him to suffer the same. He asked, “But I saw a merry party!” They laughed, “This was the demo version of Hell!”
                Alternatively, they say, “Now you know the difference between tourism and immigration!”

                Lady Liberty is a demo version. She invited the poor masses, but only of the “correct” skin color, ethnicity and religion. This had tragic consequences for Jews during WWII. Now, I fear the pendulum has swung into the opposite direction. If Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Molly Norris need police protection, I fear that breathing is no longer free enough.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted August 28, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

                The lesson learned in the United States from the plight of Jews during World War II — particularly from episodes like the so-called Voyage of the Damned — is this: Never close your border to refugees in peril.

                I can only hope my nation never forgets it.

  6. Nicholas Arand
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I’m with Maajid Nawaz when he says it may be a political move. The south of France is being pushed towards the far right and elections are coming soon here too. Some people think that risking doing the wrong thing is better than doing nothing at all(my mum is one of them). The left is not doing enough, they’re even afraid to talk about it, the right promises they know what to do and they will do it. Sad. This is not getting better.

  7. Posted August 26, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    The burkini ban was a massive, illiberal mistake that will taint any future, sensible and proportionate policies to tackle Islamism with the smell of bigotry.

    I’m baffled by the logic that lead French authorities to believe this was the battle that had to be fought first.

    Meanwhile, Newquay authorities are attributing a fall in ‘anti-social behaviour’ to the mankini ban, but you won’t find outraged Guardian readers donning the garment in sympathy with this ‘oppressed’ group.

    • Posted August 26, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      What do you think French authorities should do?

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        Imo they shouldn’t have done anything in the first place. The original decision to ban reeks of anti-Muslim bigotry.

        One of the reasons there’s such a big problem with Islamist terrorism in France is their failure to integrate Muslims into society. Per capita, they also have a huge proportion compared to other Western countries of people going to join DAESH. Laws like the burkini ban exacerbate the problem by alienating even more people.

        • Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

          “One of the reasons there’s such a big problem with Islamist terrorism in France is their failure to integrate Muslims into society.”

          Restated: “One of the reasons there is such a big problem with Islamist terrorism in France is the failure of Muslims to integrate into society.”

          It is the responsibility of the immigrant to learn how to live in the new culture. In the U.S., however, we’ve always had some groups that want to behave differently from the norm. They often live separately and try not to interact with the others any more than they must. Think of the Amish and Orthodox Jews for example.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted August 26, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

            It’s a two way thing – you’re right that I shouldn’t have stated it the way I did as immigrants definitely bear some responsibility. However, it’s not all on them either. It’s easier to become part of a new country of you feel welcome and France can be pretty unfriendly to those they see as outsiders even in big cities. Your country and mine are both more welcoming to newcomers, especially in urban areas, and it makes a big difference in them integrating.

        • Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

          They shouldn’t have enacted the ban without having a good chance of it to pass in court. Unless it is a pre-election decision.
          As for the Muslims in France being alienated – Russia has a twice higher proportion of Muslims and treats them much worse (up to genocide, as in Chechnya and Ingushetia), and still has smaller terrorism problem than France. This is because Russian Islamists see a strong enemy, while French Islamists see a weak enemy, and naturally think it is time to take over.

          • Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

            Police states and police-state tactics may keep the “Russian Islamists” under control in Russia or former Russian territories due to fear. Most people in Democracies do not want to live in police states or states that use police-state tactics to rule. Many of us in the
            U.S. are increasingly concerned with the militarization of our police forces and the excessive violence that seems to be causing. Terrorism by the state and genocide as signs of “a strong enemy” is disgusting and, of course, not desirable as methods of state control.

            • Filippo
              Posted August 26, 2016 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

              “Many of us in the U.S. are increasingly concerned with the militarization of our police forces and the excessive violence that seems to be causing.”

              Is that to say that police wearing protective gear “offends” – and therefore provokes – certain people? Is it, “The police made me do it (riot, loot, burn)!”?

              Anymore, just what is the “carrot” to motivate one to be a police officer? As with the military, so with the police – we expect “someone” to do it.

            • Posted August 27, 2016 at 1:39 am | Permalink

              I think that we are facing a choice of a secular police state or a theocracy, and I am opting for the former while most other commenters wish to avoid it at all costs, hoping that the latter will not materialize.

            • Posted August 28, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink

              In this discussion, your comment, though I do not agree with you, was one of the most helpful for me to clarify my thoughts.

              Namely: Normally, the state has a monopoly over violence. There is some criminal activity, but it is kept in check. If a serious challenge to this monopoly appears, a liberal state must revert to its more repressive version or disintegrate. E.g. during WWII, Britain and the USA were not as liberal as before and after it.

              When I say that fundamentalist Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to express their views on the beach by putting burkini on their women, people may object, “Live and let live! Wear clothing that expresses your views!” Yet, if I put on, say, a T-shirt with a Mo cartoon, for how long can I walk without something bad happening to me? So you see, unless some anti-Islamist measure is introduced to restore the balance, Islamists in France have rights that native French and loyal immigrants haven’t. The French state has lost its monopoly over violence because Islamists gun down their opponents in broad daylight. This state must do something to restore its monopoly. If it fails, I see it doomed.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted August 26, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, you’re right on all counts there imo. In France it’s a political thing to get votes and the Russians do treat Muslims much worse. I suspect the numbers of Russian Islamists leaving to fight might be much higher than their government is admitting because it doesn’t seem to have risen for some time and that’s really unlikely, especially given the way they’re treated there.

        • macha
          Posted August 27, 2016 at 3:24 am | Permalink

          I’ve lived in France (not too far from Nice) for many years and always found the French friendly and welcoming – provided you’re prepared to have a go at speaking French, etc.

          However, if you look at any media outlet (TV, newspapers, magazines and so on), and exclude sport and pop music, I can guarantee that 100% of the faces shown are white. You occasionally see a token Maghrebi, but it’s rare.

  8. mordacious1
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    People are irate that the male police are making a woman remove articles of clothing. I’m sure that’s not the case. She was probably told that, in order to stay on the beach, she’d have to remove the banned items. She could have left, but chose to remove them instead. Her choice.

    I’ve been places where hats aren’t allowed and have been told the same thing, remove it or leave. I can think of other places where certain items of clothing are inappropriate and people have to remove them if they want to stay. All this is, is a dress code.

    That being said, I agree that this ban is ridiculous.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      I think your first two paras are accurate. I’ve been asked to put on shoes in a couple of shopping malls ‘because health and safety’ (which is bullshit but it’s their mall). So I either leave or go find my sandals.

      I think it’s entirely up to the beach authorities to make the clothing rules. I believe clothes are banned on some nude beaches. Other beaches (most) have minimum standards – some permit topless, some don’t. As you say, it’s a dress code.


      • mordacious1
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

        I think it boils down to the tourist dollar. Considering the recent violence, will people be less hesitant to visit an area, in this case beaches, if they see many obvious muslims around? Someone elsewhere stated that there weren’t that many burkinis before the violence, but now the muslims are pushing the issue and women are showing up on the beaches in droves, where only a few were present before the recent attacks.

  9. michieux
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    For the first seven years of my education I was taught by Catholic nuns, whose habits left only their faces and hands exposed. Yet I felt there was nothing hidden. Some of them were very loving and kind towards a little German boy who could barely speak English; others, less so.

    All by way of saying that to me, their clothing seemed immaterial: they may as well have been naked.

    I’m an atheist and hold all religions in equal disdain, but I think this sort of discrimination does little if anything to challenge people’s beliefs. It may actually strengthen their faith.

    Besides, once upon a time I was a would-be hippie, given to clothing extravagances that still make me blush. Then, as now, some people discriminated based on what I wore, while others seemed blind to my sartorial inelegance.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      … they may as well have been naked …

      Jeez, I clocked eight years in parochial school with nuns myself. And as one former Catholic schoolboy to another, I gotta tell ya, our attitude toward what was under a nun’s habit mirrored what most Americans think about west Texas — it’s old and it’s dry, and everybody knows it’s there, but nobody cares.

      • michieux
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know about that. The nuns who ran the school I was sent to were of the Presentation order, and ranged in age from quite young to quite old. Although some of the older ones seemed bitter and twisted, many were not. I thought some of the younger ones were pretty. And more than a few were very sweet people who I liked very much and still think of today.

        I sometimes joke about the nuns and characterise them as being stereotypical ‘old crones’, but the actual persons in those black outfits were not that different from people generally.

        I see that among the Muslim women who live in our area. It’s so easy to demonise these people, but up close they’re recognisably human. Albeit humans with some odd beliefs.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 26, 2016 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

          Yes, but the nuns were people. You could see their faces.

          Contrast the pics above of 2012 Iranians and 2011 Afghans. The Iranians are women, albeit wearing bloody stupid clothes but they are recognisably human. The Afghans are creepy alien spooks.


    • mordacious1
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      “All by way of saying that to me, their clothing seemed immaterial:…”.

      Kind of like the emperors new clothes?

      • michieux
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        Heh heh.

  10. Hempenstein
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    The burkini ban’s fine with me. I see it as pushback against underground burka police operating in France. A small bit of protection of Muslim women, if you will, a bit of facilitating their entry into French society.

    I suspect Kemal Ataturk would have seen it the same way.

  11. Pliny the in Between
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Male limits placed on women. Male rules defining women. It’s so pervasive it’s hard to know where to start. But I have some hope from watching my eldest and her friends grow up in the Portland bubble. Since none of them were told the limits of what they could be they’ve become an amazing group of young women. Smart confident and capable. Unwilling to diminish their identities to serve some frail male ego. None were told that they had to be ‘nice’, just encouraged to be kind. Not particularly religious they have a strong sense of duty to each other and their community. They fulfill every parents hope – they are better than their parents. Look out boys, because this generation hasn’t been programmed to put up with your crap.

    • Posted August 26, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      I’m hoping you are referring to Portland, Oregon. Portland is pretty amazing in very many ways. But, it can use all the “smart confident and capable” young women it can get.

      I am assuming that the parents of these girls led by example, not by fiat. I take great pride in the strong, smart, capable, courageous
      young women of Portland, Oregon! I have two daughters that are among their number.

      • Pliny the in Between
        Posted August 26, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        Yep, the People’s Republic of Portland is our home.

  12. Posted August 26, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m still waiting for the exportation of bad ideas ban.

  13. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    My feeds just flashed that Nice will continue fining the use of burkinis, and that the other beaches will follow. I don’t know if it is temporary, based on that the court decision was a temporary one and not based on legal deliberation. Or if the cities can fine despite having a specific law in place; isn’t the similar going nude no-no based on that it unsettles other bathers?

    Also, seems Sarkozy just made an election promise to enforce a national ban 2017.

    A lot to say around this unfortunate business.

    I read The Guardian article by the burkini inventor, and it was at least twice oblivious about the religious context. (I.e. it was asking Muslims if this wasn’t acceptable; it was describing the social push back while claiming it was liberating.)

    Saunas has a clothing problem too, as it turns out. People not used to it may cover up their nudity for reasons best known to themselves. But then think they satisfy the “sit on towel” hygienic rule by using their dirty underwear as replacement. Oy vey.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted August 26, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      I had time to check, and the continued fining as if nothing happened is based on that the court decision is temporary.

  14. Posted August 26, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I was being facetious when I mentioned the mankini ban above, but how about this for a double standard:

    Steven Ellis, 41 and brother-in-law Jason Hendry, 22, had planned to walk eight miles from Solihull to Birmingham city centre to raise money for Birmingham Dogs’ Home – but had to be joined by officers after they were attacked as they passed through the Sparkbrook area of the city.

    The pair say the police told them their skimpy outfits had caused offence to locals during Ramadan, and that tensions were high due to an upcoming EDL march.

  15. Anonymous
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    If there was a religion that forced women to wear dog collars around their necks and shackles on their ankles, and the government prohibited such things in public areas, would there still be an outcry? This is not a freedom of choice issue. These women are not free to wear what they want at the beach, whether there is a burka ban in place or not. They are being forced by a backwards ideology to wear this stuff. We see what women wear to the beach when they are not being pressured, and it sure isn’t a burka.

    If anything this law helps to liberate women of their dog collars and shackles.

  16. Steve Pollard
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    The burqini is an absurd costume; but the attempted ban is even more absurd. People cover up on the beach for all sorts of reasons. What about surfing wetsuits? What about people like my sister, who is hypersensitive to sunburn and needs to keep covered up for her health? The beach is a place for personal freedom. Who are the French police to say that some forms of freedom are more acceptable than others?

    It is surely a cause for celebration that Moslem women feel able to join in social activities like sitting on the beach. Would people prefer that they stay in their back rooms and never interact at all? Let’s concentrate our fire on things that really do damage our ability to live alongside each other.

  17. Jim Smith
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I would ban big bulky winter jackets and balaclavas on hot summer days.

  18. keith cook +/-
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    On many west coast beaches of NZ, a burkini could be a death trap, unlike a wet suit which keeps you buoyant, the burkini would weigh the wearer down.
    The surf, if you are not surf savvy and not a strong swimmer would do the rest.. that’s not to say you would drown but you could easily get a big fright and someone has to save you. Full respect has to be made for surf conditions anywhere I suspect.
    A life guard would if asked or would offer up recommending you take as much of it off before swimming or wear something else appropriate.
    So this location is the Ligurian Sea, big deal, to my western sensibilities (enjoyment of sun,surf, freedom and ice cream) a burkini at the beach is a ridiculous garment and for that reason alone I feel these women are repressed, let alone the misogynistic religious dictate to wear the damn things.

  19. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 26, 2016 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    ‘In London, demonstrators created a makeshift beach Thursday outside the French Embassy for a “Wear what you want beach party.”’

    What immediately occurred to me when I saw the photo of that was, that in e.g. Saudi Arabia, most of those at the party would instantly be arrested and would face a far worse time than any burkini-wearers ever do in France.


  20. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 27, 2016 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    I want to be on record : I breathed a sigh of relief when I read this (first read from WEIT email subscription in fact). However, I dread the return swing of the pendulum – be it an X-Y pendulum or a pendulum on a gimbal – … PuffHo headline attempt : ” See 7 ways these millennials are owning the modern burqua at genius levels”.

  21. Filippo
    Posted August 27, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Is it against French law for males to walk around on the beach with their trousers pulled down below the lower limb of the buttocks, exposing their boxer shorts?

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