The Mayor of the French town of Nice has passed a law banning the Burkini, a full body cover designed for swimming. Quite how you define this is beyond me. I for example am luminously pasty and often cover up on the beach because while I CAN go out in direct sunlight, I don’t like it. I might, wear a rash suit rather than deal with suncream, especially if on my own. Would I be asked to disrobe, and risk sunburn?
There’s the hypocrisy too: Pictures of armed french police demanding a woman disrobe are uncomfortable. I thought we in the west were about female emancipation?
Nuns, bathing in even less revealing clothing inspired ultimately by the same abrahamic exhortation to female modesty, will, I presume remain unmolested.
This isn’t about the Burkini, of course, but about muslim integration. There’s no doubt muslim immigration has unsettled large swaths of the population of Europe. It’s not about terrorism. It’s about feeling a stranger in your own country, surrounded in some areas by people who speak a different language, wear different clothes and do not mix or integrate with the native population, and it’s these feelings that are driving people to le Front National, Brexit, Swedish Democrats and so forth.
A Burka ban is clearly silly, unenforceable but eye-catching. A symptom of something we have to address. Perhaps Islam IS incompatible with western ideas, especially where the immigrants are poor and in large numbers. But I don’t think this to be the case. The USA, with far fewer, better-educated muslims has done a much better job of integrating than Europe or the UK, where ghettos have been allowed to form, and the 2nd and 3rd generation are, in contrast to previous waves of immigration, no better integrated than their parents and grandparents. If anything in places like Bradford, or the poor areas of Brussels some muslims are becoming increasingly radicalised as immigrant communities and the native population reject each other.
What the people voted for in Austria when they nearly elected Norbert Hoffer, In France when they nearly elected Le Pen, in the UK when they voted for Brexit is an end to immigration, especially of people who don’t share our values. And Muslims far too often don’t share our values (nor, brexiteers, do they come from the EU…).
In wearing a Burkini on the beach, or the Niqab in town, a woman (or her husband…) is visibly making a statement rejecting French culture. A man in a Shalwar Kameez makes the same statement. If he’s in a local majority, these clothes subconsciously say “this place is ours now, not yours” and this can feel profoundly threatening. Especially when combined with a wave of Islamist-inspired terrorist outrages. The difference between me wearing a rash suit on a beach, and a woman wearing a burkini is one of intent. The only statement I am making is “I have very pale skin”.
These feelings are inchoate, but they are real. The rejection of western society represented by the people wearing these clothes is real. I don’t like seeing a woman in Niqab, which makes me profoundly uncomfortable with the alien creed behind that outfit. Clearly I don’t think I should have a right to do anything about it, and the problem is mine more than theirs. The state controlling how people dress is clearly absurd and illiberal. There’s little that can be done beyond an exhortation to the locals to exercise a bit of tolerance, and to the Muslim population of Europe to make an effort to fit in. Blaming “islamophobia” will just make matters worse because radical Islamism as practiced by a small minority is the main terrorist threat and the isolated, unintegrated communities of overwhelmingly decent muslims is the water in which the islamist sharks swim. Fear of unintegrated muslims isn’t irrational. Multiculturalism doesn’t work. We all need to share the same values, and isolated, inward-looking communities which reject mainstream society don’t work for anyone.
Integration is as much about appearance as behaviour. So, yes, in France, ‘making an effort’ probably does mean getting the girls out on the beach. And Muslim chaps: perhaps save the Shalwar Kameez for the Mosque on Friday, try to look like a Frenchman the rest of the time? That way the locals will feel less threatened, and muslims will be less isolated. Ultimately a law banning Burkinis represents a failure of European society to persuade immigrant communities our society is better. Do we even still believe it is? And Finally, les Gendarmes: have a look at the Peelian principles and leave innocent women on the beach alone, whatever they choose to wear. This sort of thing is about persuasion, cultural change and shouldn’t be enforced by men with guns.
Now, where’s my leopard print thong, and the factor 50?