Originally published under the title "Q & A: Burqas and Burquinis: A Famous Feminist Weighs in on the Burquini Affair."
Phyllis Chesler: "[A]s long as any woman can be beaten, death-threatened, or honor/horror-murdered in the West because she refuses to wear any version of the Islamic veil ... Western democracies should consider banning it."
Does a democratic government have the right to legislate what women wear?
Phyllis Chesler: In my view, ideally, neither a government nor a woman's family, both of which are patriarchal entitles, should have the right to legislate what a woman can and cannot wear.
It is therefore very dispiriting that so many Western "progressives," including feminists, are rushing to uphold Sharia' law and increasingly reactionary Islamist interpretations of the Islamic Veil (mainly the face mask and full face and body covering), even as they remain silent about the Shari'a based persecution of Christians, homosexuals, Yazidis--and Israelis--by those Muslims who are barbaric Jihadists. Even more ironic, is their relative silence about how freedom-loving Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents, including feminists, are being severely subordinated, tortured, and murdered by Muslim Islamists.
In my opinion, as long as any woman can be beaten, death-threatened, or honor/horror murdered in the West because she refuses to wear any version of the Islamic Veil—for this reason alone, the Western democracies should consider banning it. Doing so, will not protect us from Islamic terrorist attacks nor will it necessarily help foster integration—two very essential priorities— but it may help save the lives of women living in Western-style democracies.
Such bans concern women's human and civil rights; her right to sunlight (without which she will contract all the diseases associated with a Vitamin D deficiency); her right to see, hear, and walk—or swim—easily; her right to be comfortable in the heat by wearing light-weight clothing; her right to see and be clearly identified by others in the public square or at work.
Banning the Islamic veil is one way of refusing to collaborate with such barbaric misogyny.
There is another reason a ban on the Islamic veil might be essential. Remember the alarmingly high rates of Muslim male gang-gropes and gang-rapes of naked-faced women all over Europe, both infidel and Muslim? Not wearing the Islamic Veil (burqa, chador, niqab, hijab) is often interpreted as: "The woman is fair game, she's a prostitute." Thus, wearing Islamic head, face, and body-gear targets those women who are not "covered." And, by the way, many "covered" women have, nevertheless, been assaulted anyway.
Does a democratic, post-Enlightenment government have the right to extend the rule of law to all its citizens, including female or immigrant citizens? I'd say that it has the absolute moral and legal obligation to do so.
So what is your problem with the burkini?
On the one hand, this is a false issue. Far more important is finding Islamic terrorists before they attack in Paris, Nice, Brussels, and elsewhere in Europe. Far more important is naming, fighting, and winning the war of ideas, the Islamic religious war against Western freedoms that has led to terrorist attacks. Far more important is either finding ways of integrating non-hostile immigrants or of stopping "the hostiles" at the border.
Sensory deprivation is a form of oppression.
My concern with the burkini as follows: It does not seem all that comfortable to be swimming in so much yardage; it is not safe to have one's ears blocked while swimming either. Not to be able to feel the water directly against one's skin is equivalent to wearing a monk's hair shirt.
Women are not being permitted the simple God-given pleasures of our sensory beings. Why? What crime have women committed to be so punished?
What about Haredi women's burkini type swimsuits?
I fully support modesty as a woman's choice. That is the difference. I believe that reasonable modesty is a woman's choice--and a sane one given the world in which we live. I oppose unreasonable modesty that is also unsafe and uncomfortable.
Why do you think France made an issue of this when there is so much other Muslim evidence of takeover? Maybe they are afraid of doing anything else, as Giulio Meotti has written, and this is their weak and symbolic way to "fight" Islamization.
Perhaps Giulio is right, and yet France has a long tradition of secularism, or laïcité. It has banned the hijab in certain settings (schools, government offices) and it has banned the burqa (or face mask) entirely. Banning the burkini is just another such challenge on the long and difficult road to integration.
"Foreign cultural norms are being injected into Western culture. Where does it stop?"
The burkini and the burqa are also on a continuum of demands and challenges which face Europe and America. This is not an isolated instance in which foreign cultural norms are being injected into Western culture. Where does it stop?
Female genital mutilation, polygamy, child marriage, honor-based violence, and honor/horror killing have dared the West to stop such gender apartheid practices; attacks on infidels, especially Jews in Europe, are another such attempt to import religious apartheid from the Muslim world. The demand for halal food in public, secular schools, demanding that Muslim holidays be recognized as if they were national holidays, etc., are part of this continuum.
Praying, eating halal food, taking holidays, is not the problem. Acting as if such observances are sanctioned by the state which, in the West is separate from religion, is the problem.