It’s not a bad thing that the political row over burkinis has intensified. It’s a debate that really needs to take place.
It all kicked off when a woman in a headscarf was photographed on a beach in Nice surrounded by armed police apparently ordering her to remove a long-sleeved top. The city, along with 15 other seaside areas in south-east France, had imposed a ban on the burkini on its beaches.
The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, condemned the ban during a visit to Paris last week. “I’m quite firm on this,” he said. “I don’t think anyone should tell women what they can and can’t wear. Full stop. It’s as simple as that.”
But it’s not as simple as that, is it?
Ultimately it raises the question of gender inequality. Until such time as husbands are seen wearing full-body swimsuits alongside their wives, the issue of Muslim women covering up will always smack of oppression and inequality to me. What are we supposed to tolerate next in the name of multicultural sensitivity? Polygamy? FGM?
Maybe criminalising clothes is not the best approach, but if the burqa and the burkini are so empowering for Muslim women, please explain all the iconic images of Syrian women burning burqas in joyous celebration after being freed from Isil. So let’s carry on – let’s welcome this debate about integration. It’s no good pushing the issue aside. Or covering it up.