On French Beaches, a New Form of the Same Old Imperialism

The rules in the European empires, which must be enforced at any cost, have always negated the culture of the natives — this time, in the name of the West’s fanatic religion.

Iris Leal
Iris Leal
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Police enforcing a ban on the burkini hovering by woman on Nice beach as she removes a tunic, August 24, 2016.
Police enforcing a ban on the burkini hovering by woman on Nice beach as she removes a tunic, August 24, 2016.Credit: BESTIMAGE
Iris Leal
Iris Leal

The colonial war drags on. It has merely relocated to the interior of the ruling country and is currently raging in the killing fields of Villeneuve Loubet. The towns near the French Riviera beaches are enforcing harsh dress codes, mainly on women, and no deviations are tolerated. The men are expected to wear a bathing suit cut like underwear, of elastic material that clings to the body and attests to the musculature in the back and the presence or absence of a circumcision in the front. The women, in contrast, must don a tiny bikini, and roast their skin equally on both sides to a state of second-degree burn.

These are the rules in the European empires, and they intend to enforce them at any cost, because they have always negated the culture of the natives, and after they were forced to assume responsibility and let them into their countries, they continue to teach them the harsh lesson of liberalism: One must not wear a bathing suit that openly advertises one’s religious affiliation, unless it is the fanatic religion of the West known as “the values of morality and secularism,” which demands that women be pleasing to behold and constitute the main entertainment at the beach.

While France’s Supreme Administrative Court did overturn the prohibition against wearing burkinis, the picture of the police standing over a Muslim woman and forcing her to remove part of her clothing until she met the standard percentage of exposed flesh cannot be erased from our memories – or from the search engines on the web, where it will remain eternally in disgrace. Everyone has his or her own private library of images. This photo reminded me of the cutting of Jewish beards on this continent.

Indeed, oppression in its various forms succeeds when a non-compliant nature is ultimately defeated and tranquil unity is achieved. We here know a thing or two about that. The main efforts of Israel’s government are invested in a kind of tranquil and pleasant acceptance of the occupation. That must be remembered by all the secular Arab Muslims in this country who want to see Islam changing and women achieving a way of life in which their rights are respected, first and foremost the right to self-determination. This change must take place within Islam, just like the internal struggles against the fossilization of the Catholic Church or against the control of the rabbis in Orthodox Judaism.

During summer vacations I used to go to the beach once a week with my grandmother. We would meet on Yerushalayim Street in Bnei Brak, women wearing long cotton robes and their daughters. In a tumult of beach balls and inflatable float rings, nose-blowing and loud demands for ice pops, wax paper torn from sandwiches even before we reached the first bus stop, we headed to the beach reserved for the Orthodox on the day reserved for women. The thought that someone would force these women to remove the robes they wore at the beach turns my stomach.

I have no doubt about the justness of the war against the archaic restrictive cages in which the historic religions still lock women. And I know, sadly that its victories will be too slow and small. Yet in the heart of Europe, which with one hand takes the Muslims in and with the other, colonial hand, rejects them, dangerous processes are underway. Petty racism is being concealed under a cloak of values and security. It is not the woman in the turquoise burkini who was hiding a dangerous weapon, but rather that old imperialism rearing its bad memories.

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