#BurkiniBan — Is France flirting with Fascism?
Recently, a picture, of four armed officers ordering a woman to undress in public on a beach in France, went viral on internet — getting all kinds of mixed reactions from different people. Let’s debunk the various arguments made in the favour of France’s Fascism — not secularism clearly as many would think.
1) Argument: “Their country, their rules.”
It is often stated that people living in a country should conform to the rules of the country, no matter, how absurd these rules are. This argument, essentially legitimizes, the ridiculous hijab law in Iran, the misogynistic ban on women driving in Saudia, the beef ban in India, and the illogical ban on religious practice by Ahmadis in Pakistan. The table, you are setting by making this argument, is downright against the essence of your own struggle while fighting with these laws. Laws imposed, whether on the basis of religious inclination, or on the basis of a particular ideology, are both misplaced and should be condemned unequivocally.
2) Argument: “The piece of clothing is part of the enslavement of women.”
Let’s get this straight, the idea of forcibly putting clothes on women for ensuring misplaced modesty, is as preposterous of an idea as that of forcibly taking away the clothes from women for false liberation. Wearing a piece of cloth, based on one’s own will, doesn’t necessarily mean enslavement and making one undress in public, is neither liberation, nor it is women empowerment. It is against the very notion of human dignity to deprive one of one’s own free choices. Both rightists and leftists need to get over the ridiculous idea of controlling woman’s clothing in order to determine how empowered she is.
As Arundhati Roy puts it;
“Coercing a woman out of burqa is as bad as coercing her into one.”
3) Argument: “Identity is needed to eradicate the likelihood of a security threat.”
While the idea of revealing one’s identity makes perfect sense in the wake of increasing security threat on the sensitive places like airports and banks, it cannot simply be applied to the ban on Burkinis as a burkini never certify face coverage and in fact, the faces of women, wearing the burkinis, are clearly visible. The whole idea of focusing on how revealed or covered a woman should be, under the false flags of security threats from extremists or rape threats from rapists, is downright patriarchal, misogynistic and controlling.
4) Argument: “Secularism doesn’t accept public display of religion. Secular outlook of the country is necessary to maintain public order.”
Churches, Synagogues, Mosques are all public representation of religion and all of these, guarantee public display of religion. Secularism is not about banning the display of religion, it is about making sure the free practice of any religion — yes publically too. Being a flag bearer of secularism, France should make room for pluralistic values in order to accommodate different races, different religions, and different cultures.
5) Argument: “Burkini only represents Islam and thus allowing it gives Muslims special privileges.”
Burkini is not the representation of Islam but it can be a need of any woman who is not comfortable revealing her skin and she can belong to any religion or culture. Many a women, belonging to different religions, take necessary precautions in order to avoid the sun burns or simply because they are not at ease revealing their bodies. Allowing people to practice the religion of their own choice, as long as it isn’t hurting anyone, is not tantamount to giving them the special privileges but it is about giving them the basic right to profess whatever they want to profess.
Imposing anything, by any stretch of imagination, is not secularism but fascism. The alternate for religious extremism is not fascism, but secular, liberal, and pluralistic values which ensure the inclusion of all the races, religions, cultures etc. Those who represent liberal, secular, progressive values should not be swayed away in the wave of fascism, intolerance and xenophobia — only because it is presented in the folds of secularism — just like the religious extremism sugar coated with the religious values should not woo peaceful followers of religion.