The French burkini photos weren’t shocking. We feel this public humiliation all the time

Every other Muslim girl I spoke to was disgusted, but not surprised


Last week on a beach in the Riviera, four armed men stood over a woman, intimidate her into removing her clothes. I’ve been speaking to a lot of muslim girls about this incident, you can’t have missed it. A Muslim woman on a beach in Nice was forced to take off her ‘burkini’, following the controversial burkini ban which itself followed the horrific terrorist attack in Nice.

The common sentiment among young British Muslim women in reaction to the incident is one of disgust. One of my friends told me: “I would have been traumatised for life”.  But when I asked my mum about it, I was surprised and disheartened to find that she wasn’t at all shocked. She came to Britain in the 90s and has seen too much discrimination and prejudice to ever be fully surprised at the site of a minority being subjected to humiliation.

Her first reaction, believe it or not, was “why didn’t she just go home instead of going through that?”

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Without asking the woman herself, we can only imagine the emotions and thoughts she was having at that moment, several armed men standing over her lying body to police what she was wearing.  My mother’s reaction stopped me in my tracks, I was caught up with feelings of despair trying to put myself in her shoes.

What most muslim women are baffled at is that she doesn’t even seem to be wearing a burkini, it looks like a long tunic instead of the actual swimwear that you can buy in most mainstream stores. It looks like she left her home that day to go out and integrate and simply have a nice day on the beach.

Those who defend the ban on Muslim women’s choice of clothing often point to the terrible terrorist attacks which have plagued France this year. But their logic often glosses over the fact that the first person to die in those horrific terrorist attacks on Bastille day was a Muslim woman. Muslim women incorporate modern fashion trends and comfort in their everyday lives while trying to balance their religious duties. Muslim women are the most visible individuals in the Muslim community and so they often bear the brunt of toxic Islamophobia. Muslim women are often the subject of controversial debates on Islam in the western world and yet are usually never invited to lend their voice on the matter.

Doesn’t it seem like instead of trying to facilitate the integration of Muslims into French society, France seems to be treating them like a pariah instead, forcing their further alienation? That they’re causing social cohesion to become more difficult and ultimately to fail?

Apparently she wasn’t wearing an outfit reflection ‘good morals and secularism’. Who is it that decides that? Why wasn’t being topless banned from the beach, why this specific ban aimed to hurt a specific minority?

Siam’s daughter had to stand by and watch as people shouted ‘go home’ to her mother. A moment that will probably stick with her for the rest of her life.

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If you are outraged by the incident, it’s probably best not to share the images of the French Muslim being forced to remove her clothing. Rather if you see any Islamophobia aimed at your Muslim friends, lend your help. Muslim women are increasingly made to feel like outsiders, which will affect their everyday lives and the smallest decisions they make, like deciding to go to a beach on a hot day.

Towards the end of last week in the backlash following the photos, a ‘wear what you want’ protest was staged outside the French embassy, a women-only event to show solidarity to French women opposing the burkini ban. Women from around the UK gathered wearing burkinis, bikinis, whatever they wanted, and played in sand.

Women all over Europe should be outraged by this incident, but for most of us there’s just quiet disgust and resignation. The burkini ban is not only an attack on Muslim women, it is an attack on women, we can’t slowly let governments impose restrictions on our dress. There is no context in which a women should be surrounded by men and ordered to disrobe, in a western and progressive society, we should all recoil.