On the burkini controversy

Burqini controversy

I did wear bloomers in college, for PE. We were the last batch subject to that dress code. Made to distort the female’s figure from waist down it served as a kind of chastity belt which kept us from being ogled at when we’re out on campus stretching, bending, and the like. We didn’t like it, it made us feel like we were our grandmothers, but that was the rule. A rule that we could live with.

Now the burkini. The controversy points to an aspect of tourism that’s often ignored yet has great impact on localities and among locals and that is, tourists’ respect of local rules.

The burkini issue is not, in my view, about a country dictating what women ought to wear on the beach. I see it rather as a reasonable rule comparable to what certain institutions such as churches espouse e.g. no cleavage baring dress inside Catholic churches, or leaving one’s shoes outside when entering a mosque. Or, the uniforms mandated for employees in certain organizations. Similar rules are also observed in private households as for example in Japan and Cambodia where shoes are left at the door. Observance of such rules is to me like minding one’s manners- it makes for a smooth and pleasant journey for everyone.

Muslim women likewise are restricted by their religion to certain dress codes. What to do when these tourists would like to go for a dip at a local beach?

Questions arising out of the burkini controversy include, were the tourists advised by local authorities of alternatives e.g. dedicated beaches where Muslim women could wear burkinis? If not, did local authorities think Muslim women do not go to the beach? This was apparently the thinking in the absence of preconceived areas for this group of tourists. Then again designating separate areas for certain groups could backfire and decried as segregation. In any case, discussing alternatives with the local Muslim community would help prepare countries to manage peculiarities of this culture and religion. Local authorities need to understand that one Muslim terrorist does not make all Muslims that.

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