News & Views - Nieuws & Meningen


The Burkini Debate


A friend sent me a picture of a woman in burkini photographed at a beach in Israel. His mail was a positive expression. But the situation in Israel (history, geography, demography, geopolitical position) cannot be compared to the situation in the European Union.

In France (and maybe soon in other EU countries) the debate will be growing in significance. Politically correct people will say that a ban on the burkini (and on the burqa and niqab) is restricting muslims in expressing their religion. The politically correct also say that one hardly ever sees a woman in one of these outfits. Those people do not understand the make up of Western society. They also do not understand what lawmaking means and what freedom entails.

Banning the burkini or any other religious expression in public - like praying in the streets of Paris (you would think the sirenes came to disturb the disturbance) - is not just a regulation for a momentary, actual situation for which a law can be proposed, accepted and put into effect. When proposing such a law it is also important to have a notion of what the situation will probably be like in ten or twenty years time.



And then it is not about the freedom of religious expression. It is about "my personal freedom" and not wanting to be confronted with a "religion" that is overbearingly manifesting itself. Moreover laicism ("laicité" in France) means also 'equality'. Remember: liberté, fraternité, égalité.
Where "my freedom" ends is where "your freedom" begins and vice versa. There should be a healthy balance.
If you are too prominent in your expression, you will deliberately take a portion of "my freedom" away from me.


In essence this is the question. How much tolerance and freedom should we expect? The same as is guaranteed by the constitutions of many western countries, even if the question of freedom is not in the scriptures of Islam, Quran and Hadith, to begin with.


More than ten years ago I proposed that all christians (catholics and protestants) and also all humanists should start wearing a purple arm band, a really wide one, on the upper arm, above the elbow and naturally quite visible, so that everybody and also muslims will be confronted each and every day with the fact that christians and christianity and humanism too, and whatever peaceful religion people belong to, have equal rights in our country and deserve equal prominence.

If people start to wear those arm bands you certainly do not have to wait long before muslims will start complaining. I suspect that many muslims will protest even right away!
Others will not protest because they do understand what it means to live in a free society and that there should be a healthy balance of freedom given and freedom taken.


It is known that many muslims (not all I dare say) cannot live in a secular or semi-secular society. That is why they want to get rid of Bashir-al-Assad in Syria and also President El-Sisi in Egypt of late. Barack Obama supported the so called freedom fighters who want to establish a muslim state in many countries because he has one foot in the White House and the other in a mosque, as is suggested in the internet. (Obama's half-brother is said to be a member of the muslim brotherhood, and Obama himself was educated in his early Indonesian years in what is generally called a Quran school.) Frontpage Mag

So freedom of expression is not only a question of having freedom in a democracy. It is about the measure of freedom. The Charlie Hebdo cartoons were a reaction on the overbearing manifestation of the muslim religion. So the Charlie Hebdo magazine took its own overbearing position setting the balance straight.


As Western democracy is guaranteeing freedom, it should be understood that it shall be freedom in equality. That balance can easily be disturbed. Next to the negative or positive possible development over many years, there is another most important ingredient what people generally forget to calculate, and that is the factor "numbers".
I am sure that the number (percentage) of women wearing a burkini in Israel will in the end be lower if compared to the women in the EU, especially in the long term.

If the situation in the EU - or whatever single country you may think of - may change in time and freedom is respected also from the side of the muslims, than a specific restricting law will no longer be necessary.
What is frightening however is that the influence through the manifestation of the muslim religion is likely to grow, at least in the years to come. Frightening only if a healthy balance is not maintained.


Before Sadiq Khan became mayor of London, he addressed the wearing of Burka and niqab in relation to the freedom of women, in April 2016. But now Sadiq Khan is the mayor, he prohibited billboards that were showing too much nudity in the streets of London, because it offended muslims. He did not propose that in return wearing a burqua or niqab that offends so many Londoners, would meet restrictions also.


Naturally Khan, a muslim himself, took part in the discussion about banning the burkini in France and he demanded that France should ban the ban. Even though the French High Court, the Conseil d'Etat, has ruled that banning the burkini is illegal, is not in accordance with the principle of "laicité", there are a number of mayors who think otherwise and continue to keep the ban in effect. The City of Nice is not willing that freedom will be claimed by muslims to the detriment of neutrality, typically on the Promenade des Anglais. The same goes for the City of Cannes.

Apart from this there are also commercial aspects of the ruling by these cities. Or people from all over the country may come to watch a curiosity.
Cannes - and other cities and places - certainly will see to it that the maximum of freedom can be claimed.


August 28, 2016



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