Your sense of modesty (most people would agree) is your own damn business. American men visiting a public swimming pool in Europe may be shocked to discover that the American cargo style trunks are not allowed in public pools. If you want to swim in these pools they must don a speedo and display your junk like the rest of European males. On the beach however you can wear what you want. There is an exception to this rule however, the exception is if you are a Muslim woman.

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Many Westerners both left and right of the political spectrum claim that their difficulty with Arab/Muslim states is its treatment of women. I include myself in this assessment. I have turned down good paying teaching jobs in Arab countries fearing that I would not be capable of keeping my mouth shut on the subject of equal rights.

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Recent European court decisions have upheld France and Switzerland’s ban on Burqas in public. This despite article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which allows freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Hundreds of thousands of Euros worth of fines have been issued since the 2010 law was passed in France and this year some French cities like Cannes and Nice are taking the issue to the beach. French police are addressing Muslim women dressed in the Burqa swimwear or “burqini” telling them to disrobe or face steep fines.

The woman on the right exercising her right to wear what she wants. People on the left exercising their rights to be assholes.

The woman on the right exercising her right to wear what she wants. People on the left exercising their rights to be assholes.

It was not long ago in the 1990s when the city of Cannes banned beachwear like bikinis in local shops and now are making a quick about face telling culturally modest women that they must reveal more skin. A move which I find repugnant. The women are being targeted for no other reason than they are an easy target. The west is supposed to stand for freedom and against censorship, remember Je suis Charlie?  You have no freedom if you are forced to conform. These women are not promoting terrorism. They are simply looking for a way to enjoy the beach with their families. If the laws against the burqa were about forbidding men from forcing women to dress a certain way I would be all for it and ironically the French police enforcement of this law is just that, forcing woman to submit to certain amount of sexual exposure. Shame on France and Switzerland for these laws, this is not what freedom is about it is simply exploiting a woman’s right of expression. There is no current law against men wearing Arabic or African traditional dress at the beach or on the street. Until we understand the right of woman to dress as they wish to we are no better than those cultures who openly treat woman as 2nd class citizens.

 

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