How the French Burkini Ban is affecting peaceful coexistence

What is a Burkini?

The first question that begs to be answered is, what is a Burkini? Basically it is a swimsuit that covers everything except the hands, feet and face. It was designed by Australian fashion designer Aheda Zanetti. She owns the trademark to the words burqini and burkini, although the terms are now in generic use. Just so that facts are clear, in terms of style the Burkini is not much different to a scuba diving suit but the designer invented it so that the Muslim women that wanted to swim had the option to do so with modest swimwear.

The ruling to ban Burkini

In late July the Mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, banned the burkini on public beaches, calling them “the uniform of extremist Islamism.” Since then more than 30 other French municipalities, many of them along the French Riviera, have followed suit. Despite the

The ban generated broad international criticism. A widely cited New York Times editorial on August 18, described the ban as paternalistic, bigoted and hypocritical. This led to backlash across the world on the right to wear what you want, riots on not to be discriminated and more.

What resulted from this ban?

In terms of interfaith relations, this has led to division between religions and rather than having harmony and peaceful coexistence amongst people, there has been sparks of discomfort.

The question at its root is, whether such bans should be allowed in societies in the interest of public safety. Public safety wins over personal privacy in most cases, hence why France has got away with the niqabs and hijabs ban so effectively. But how is it possible to apply this to a burkini which is covering the body? Surely we are not required to be naked in the interest of public safety? Though this might be the next step forward as then at least you will know what the person is wearing…or not wearing?

What is really amusing is that about 40% of the people that were buying these outfits were Jewish and others. Many English women felt more comfortable wearing something that covered them properly as opposed to being exposed on the beach and it has had a favourable response from non-muslims. Now if you think about it from the point of view of somebody that might be body conscious this makes perfect sense!

Honestly the ban on burkinis is silly and misguided. We are creating rifts in society which do not allow people to live together peacefully. We have no business making fashion into a criminal statement that does not even exist! While it may offend the fashion sensibilities of some of France’s mayors, the burkini does not pose a threat to public safety, the thought of it is ludicrous, surely you cannot put them in the same pedestal as a niqab, Halloween mask or sunglasses? Which can be said to cover personal identification to a certain extent.

Critics have gone as far has questioning whether the police would be enforcing a ban for wetsuits nun’s habits and other garments or whether this was something special just reserved for muslims? Not only is it discrimination due to islamophobic tendencies in its highest form, it is also sexist in terms of Human rights law. France’s Human Rights League said the burkini bans are “serious and illegal attack on numerous fundamental rights” and an abuse of France’s secular principles.

Pictures and videos of incidents where women have been fined, told to get out the sea and at the same time abuse has been hurled at them. Victimising and bullying Muslim women on holiday is not the appropriate way to go, and you’re not only ensuring that the said “terrorists” have further excuse to react but you are also destroying the peaceful coexistence that is being created amongst interfaith communities.

The similarities of Abrahamic religions will open way to effective interfaith dialogue

When you look at Abrahamic religions Christianity, Islam and Judaism are the three main religions that fall into this category. They all believe and worship in the same God and accept God as the one to have created the world out of love for us and revealed himself and his will through different religious scriptures. God has told us the rules of morality and we can be moral because God created us with the abilities to know the difference between right and wrong. Choosing between right and wrong can be difficult, but for all three Abrahamic religions you have the ability to feel gratitude for the chance to be in this world and share your love with others and to do right over wrong. With this duty of right and wrong come the punishments and rewards and we are pushed towards our destiny of eternal happiness and reaching heaven.

 

Similarities between the religions

As an interfaith group that wishes to bridge gaps between the three Abrahamic faiths, we look at the different ways that the religions are similar to each other and how this can help to bring us together as one.

 

The Jewish and Islamic communities have common grounds:

  • Both eat ritually slaughtered meat
  • Prohibit idolatry
  • Grant equal status to women
  • Perform male circumcision
  • Agree on the tablet which was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, amongst many other issues.

 

The Christian and Muslim communities:

  • Believe in the miracles performed by Jesus
  • Believe in Jesus (as)
  • believe in the concept of charity
  • Belive in Judgement Day
  • Believe in the return of Jesus near the End Times
  • Believe in heaven and hell, and angels and prophets of the Old Testament.

 

All three religions have a strong basis in brotherhood and community running through it.

In the Bible, Matthew 7:12, God demands, ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.’

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as his final sermon states: ‘Even as the fingers of the two hands are equal, so are human beings equal to one another. No one has any right, any claim to superiority over one another. You are as brothers.’ The Jewish tradition imparts, ‘God has made all men brothers and they should live together as brothers at all times. It is good for men to act in unity as brothers. Such action will be blessed by God and will prosper.’

Judaism, Christianity and Islam share:

  • Ancestors
  • Believe their religious scriptures are divinely guided
  • Share practices and rituals such as charity, prayer and pilgrimage.
  • Share some common holy sites
  • Acknowledge that good deeds will be rewarded in the afterlife whilst bad ones shall be punished.

 

However, despite all these wonderful similarities to each other, rather than bringing the faiths together they are consumed by hatred for each other. This hate is usually steeped in or is driven by a nationalistic or political ideology. A good example of this is the years old conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. Rather than attempting to get together and resolve the root cause of their problems and to finally find a common ground they seem to be pushed into further conflict which is not beneficial for either country. Both are not attempting to find a way to make things work and are instead more interested in ignoring each other, hurting each other and taking lives of innocents when their scriptures clearly state not to take the life of innocents.

 

On a final note

If we look at years gone by we see a rich history filled with traditions. As an interfaith group we are hoping to bring together this rich diversity to help make people realise that we are all the one and same. We believe in the same God and therefore it is only when WE have a level of mutual understanding, a tolerance for each other and respect one another that we will create a world that is going to benefit the generations of Jews, Christians and Muslims to come. We are striving hard to bridge this gap between these interfaith groups through regular meetings. We hope to bring together the common goals and beliefs of the Abrahamic faiths and to finally have a community that is in harmony with each other.

 

 

How are we helping interfaith dialogue between Christians, Muslims & Jews?

Amongst the disarray occurring across the globe we are trying hard to bring Muslim scholars and religious leaders from around the world to show a united front and to show that we can work together in peace and harmony.  Dr Hans Kung a Professor of Ecumenical Theology and President of Global Ethnics Foundation has said “There will be no peace amongst the nations without first peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions”.

Religion is frequently cited as a cause of violent conflict, yet dialogue between faith communities often reveals that religion is not a primary source of tension. Instead working together to find peace-making techniques can be invaluable in promoting understanding and reconciliation.

Our intention is not to convert people or to force them to accept what we say or believe as this is not the focus of our interfaith dialogue. Instead we want to achieve the following benefits through interfaith dialogue:

Improve the understanding of the “other” faiths

Books can be a very good source of information to improve on one’s knowledge but this does not compare to the one-to-one interaction with practicing people. When you meet and talk to people this allows you to learn what they believe in and how they practice their faith. This then gives all groups of faith fresh perspective and increases their knowledge and understanding of other religions.

Bridging gaps

We want to bridge the gap between Muslims, Jews and Christians as often interfaith interaction is very limited to the people that you would meet at work or outside and with them it is not possible to discuss your religion in depth, to explain why you practice it and portray how you feel about your religion. With our interfaith interaction we want to reach out to Jews & Christians and help them understand we are as Muslims sympathetic and intelligent people, and are able to discuss other religions whilst being comfortable and secure in our own religion and in turn Jews and Christians have the opportunity to do the same.

Learn about other religions and our own

Most importantly, whilst we are promoting and developing the process of understanding other religions, it is very beneficial for us as within our individual religion we are researching and learning more about our own religion and ensuring that we are able to get across information that is backed accurately. After all you never stop learning!

Learning about and visiting other faith groups

To visit places of worship that matter to other faiths and to ensure before visiting that rules of etiquettes are known. These may include whether or not to remove shoes, whether to cover your head, how to sit when facing sacred objects, how to greet a member of the opposite sex, whether respectful titles and terminology are used when referring to holy figures or sacred texts. Be respectful if someone is praying or reading and ask questions to learn more about it.

 

Our objectives for the coming year via interfaith dialogues is:

  • Become a role model of how different faiths can interact and live together.
  • Help to develop understanding of different faiths and develop a community.
  • Explore and learn about each other and our traditions.
  • Share knowledge & insight.
  • Address common issues and encourage common projects amongst the different faith groups.
  • Set up monthly meetings to ensure above is covered and constantly improve on it and ensure that we inform the wider community of our commitment to each other.

 

In conclusion we want to via our interfaith dialogue build a community that is able to express its views and discuss each other’s religion freely and to learn from each other. These will then be the building steps in peace and love amongst society as well as tolerance and respect for each other’s religion.