- By Benjamin SolowayBenjamin Soloway is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy. He worked previously in Indonesia as a web editor and Princeton in Asia journalism fellow at the Jakarta Globe. He has also lived in Brazil and Turkey. His work has been published in the Boston Globe, the New Republic, USA Today, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. He studied history at Wesleyan University.
Town officials in Neutraubling, in southeastern Germany, have banned the burqini from a public pool after a woman wore one to a women-only swim day.
Burqinis are like loose wetsuits with hoods, worn mostly by Muslim women who want to cover up while swimming.
“Why the burqini as a full-body suit would be necessary to wear during a women’s swim day is for me incomprehensible,” Mayor Heinz Kiechle said last week, as reported by the Local, a European news site. “This also contradicts the fundamental ideas of integration and mutual understanding, which is always being discussed in many towns.”
Towns can set regulations on swim attire, but some Germans are calling for the rule to be changed, citing laws that protect religious freedom as a fundamental right. “We see this case not only as a clear violation of fundamental rights, but also as a blow to humanity and tolerance,” the Green Youth party said in a letter calling for an end to the ban, the Local reported Thursday.
This isn’t the first time the burqini has been targeted in Europe. In 2009, a French pool banned women from swimming in them. “Quite simply, this is segregation,” a woman who was prohibited from wearing hers told French newspaper Le Parisien at the time, as reported by the BBC. “I will fight to try to change things. And if I see that the battle is lost, I cannot rule out leaving France.”
Since 2010, France has banned women from wearing burqas in public, supposedly to keep people from hiding their identities. The ban is widely perceived as a product of and contributor to Islamophobia in the country.
The European Union migration crisis and high-profile terror attacks by radical Islamist groups have drawn attention to Muslim life in Europe, which has seen a rise in xenophobic and nationalist movements.
Meanwhile, the European fashion world has begun to embrace styles favored by many Muslims. In May, Spanish clothing design and retail company Mango launched a new collection for Ramadan. British retailer Marks and Spencer offers burqinis, with prices starting at $80. They are available in floral contrast and paisley print. Luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana is producing a line of hijabs and abayas, complete with “a little jewel-encrusted lemon here, some black lace trim there,” Vogue reported in January.
Photo credit: ANOEK DE GROOT/AFP/Getty Images