The Burkini Ban casts shadow over French Freedom

France might be very progressive when it comes to fashion sense, but their recent ban on the burkini shows how the administration’s thinking still dwells in the past. Burkini is a swimwear designed to allow women to cover as much of their body as they please and still feel free to actively participate in water sports/fun.

Contrary to popular belief, it gives Muslim women like me nothing but the freedom to exist at a beach or pool without feeling forced to expose parts of our body that we would rather cover. The kind of discrimination and prejudice faced by many women in France today due to the burkini ban is reminiscent of the agony I felt as a child growing up in the suburbs of Troy, Michigan. Every summer my mother would call up all the pools in the area as well as up to a two-hour driving distance from our house to see if they would allow me to enter the water with a proper swim material stitched bathing suit with short sleeves which extended down to my knees. Even as a child, I did not feel comfortable to be half-naked in order to have fun in the water or swim. We were denied every year on the basis of such swim attire being “unhygienic”. I had no choice but to play in the not so deep, plastic pool in my backyard and try to sink my body in all the way and pretend I was swimming. Even as a child I was not ready to compromise on my principles.

Thankfully years later, because our country values individual freedoms and we have progressed as a society, today I am welcome at any pool in Virginia in my burkini. I have even been asked by non-Muslim women, who choose to be conservative where to buy swim attire that gives them the freedom to feel comfortable and be who they are in the water. I can only say God bless America and I hope that we continue to stay on the path of civilization and progression rather than revert back to the dark, ignorant ways.

Merhunisa is a mother of three from Northern Virginia. She spent her earlier years living in the U.S. and Pakistan.
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