I realize it is very American to declare that people should be allowed to wear what they please. Especially if they decide to wear certain articles for religious reasons, regardless of what the government deems acceptable. People, specifically women, have been told what to wear since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden.
It is not the duty of the government or a high-minded politician to decide what women should wear and how they should feel about what they are wearing. Burkinis, swimsuits covering the entire body except for feet, hands and face, have been objects of contentious debate in the picturesque beach towns dotting France’s coast.
The French courts have ruled town officials do not have the right to ban burkinis, yet several mayors have ignored the ruling and upheld their bans.
Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, claims the burkini is a “symbol of the enslavement of women.” Last I checked, Valls is not and has never been a woman, so how would he know?
A member of the national government has no business telling women they should feel enslaved by something they chose to wear. At the end of the day, it is the Muslim woman’s choice to practice her religion as it is for other religions.
Much like the United States of America, France believes in the separation of government and religion. The French government is so proud of its secularism, several laws have been passed to enforce the idea.
For a significant amount of time, French government was strongly influenced by the Roman Catholic Church. It was because of the church’s power France decided to part ways with religion in government. For many first-world countries, including the United States, the government seems to only become involved with religion when Islam is being practiced.
As long as citizens of the country are practicing Christianity and minding their own business, the government is pleased. However, if a Muslim girl wants to wear her hijab to school, the government goes up in flames.
Islam has been around since 7th century C.E., and is the second largest practicing religion in the world. Islam is not new and neither are its practices, so it absolutely baffles me governments can be so intolerant of a religion that has been around for so long.
Fear is the reason why women cannot wear a burkini on a sunny day at the beach with their family. It is the reason why a bomb threat was called on a teenage boy when he wanted to show his teacher a clock he made. And it is the reason many are afraid to openly practice their religion in countries claiming to be secular.
Not everyone who practices Islam is a terrorist.
Let us not forget the terrors caused by Christianity. Will we discount the lives of the Native Americans slain by Christian conquistadors? Will we forget the number of slaves told to be subservient to their masters as it says in the Bible? What about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church?
These atrocities are not irrelevant because their abusers were Christian. There are members in every belief system twisting the original intent of the group. Wearing a piece of clothing for religious purposes has never hurt anyone and it never will—unless the government pushes someone to that point.
If someone else’s rights can be taken—yours can too.
-Mikala Everett is a mass communications junior