Changing attitudes about religion and migrants are a reality in France today. But even in the aftermath of the higher court overturning a “burkini ban”, tensions remain high and a larger transformation may be occurring.
In The Nation, writer Michele Chen sees this a validation of the fact that France’s famed “multiculturalism policy” has failed.
The storm over bans on burkinis in more than 30 French beach towns has all but drowned out the voices of Muslim women, for whom the full-body swimsuits were designed. The New York Times solicited their perspective, and the responses — more than 1,000 comments from France, Belgium and beyond — went much deeper than the question of swimwear.
What emerged was a portrait of life as a Muslim woman, veiled or not, in parts of Europe where terrorism has put people on edge. One French term was used dozens of times: “un combat,” or “a struggle,” to live day to day. Many who were born and raised in France described confusion at being told to go home.
Even as the NYT article reveals reader comments and views from everyday Muslims in France, many issues remain. A French governmental view (among others) that the position contra-dress codes challenges the very ideas undergirding the Republic :
“There is the idea that, by nature, women are harlots, impure, that they should be completely covered. It is not compatible with the values of France and the Republic. Faced with these provocations, the Republic must defend itself. Today, Muslims in France are taken hostage by these groups, these associations, these individuals who advocate for wearing the Burqini and would have you believe that the Republic and Islam are incompatible.”
—Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, to La Provence
And yet another take on the issue: its not about speech codes or refugee tensions. The beach is a symbol of French national identity, ‘writing French Muslims into’ the national narrative, a space that Marine LePen of the French far right party called the domain “of Bardot and Vadim”.