“Burqini Ban” restricts what French Muslim women can wear at the beach

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If some members of the American Conservative Christian Coalition (ACCC; a group and an acronym I just created) were successful, we might never see another little thong bikini on the shores of Miami or the cover of Illustrated sports. The right wing of the French government, on the other hand, has decided to sanction women who show up on the beaches of Cannes … not enough. This summer, the mayor of Cannes carried out a (successful) operation to ban the “Burqini” * from the beach, citing it as a symbol of Islamic extremism, which could be frightening. This is a political issue disguised as a security issue disguised as a fashion issue, so let’s step back for a second:

“Separation of Church and State” is a somewhat nebulous phrase tossed into conversation when a politician or lawmaker tries, as they often do (or succeeds, as they often do), to legislate. on the basis of religion. Using the New Testament to justify, say, a ban on same-sex marriage or abortion is hardly new. But the battle between “church” and “state” also complicates less sensitive aspects of our daily life. Prayer in school, the use of the Bible in court, and the presence of the Ten Commandments in public spaces are all issues that we Americans must revisit time and time again as our relationship to religion changes and evolves. . In 2016, we take for granted a humanist / Protestant version of secularism: Christmas is a national holiday, elected officials regularly conclude their speeches with the phrase “God bless America” ​​and the open practice of a given religion, although certainly dangerous in many areas. of the country – is by and large considered an American right.

This is not the case in France. In France, there is a policy called “Laïcité”, a much stronger division between government and religion, originally enacted over a hundred years ago to rid the French government of the influence of the Catholic Church. . Almost all the countries of Western Europe have had, at one time or another, to renegotiate their relations with the Vatican, so in this regard, Secularism is not remarkable. What developed in France in the years that followed – and especially since the end of World War II – is, however. Concretely, Laïcité means that there is no public expression of worship in France. You would never hear a French politician say “God bless France”, and there would never be a French Kim Davis. Pupils are not allowed to wear religious symbols in school, allegedly to to prevent discrimination. For example, Jewish children cannot be harassed if no one knows who they are. But it has, as you can imagine, created huge problems for students who do not believe that their religious observance is optional or separate from other parts of their life. Muslim girls are forced to choose between wearing their hijab and going to class, which, in addition to being discriminatory, defeats the goal of having a public education system.

While Muslims are still a distinct minority in France (second only to the nearly eighty percent of France who still identify as Roman Catholics), they constitute the largest population of Muslims in Europe. In recent years, especially since the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the Bataclan massacre and the Nice truck attack, a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment has allowed some French lawmakers to create even stricter rules on how secularism applies to Islam, and they always seem to unfairly target the way Muslim women dress, the most recent case being that of the “Burqinis” in Cannes.

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