Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Burkini? Modest Swimsuit

Asalamu Alaykom,

Every now and then I think that I should just shut down this blog...

but then an issue comes up which propels me towards the keyboard.


That's what is so offensive in France that they are now banned on a beach, two beaches, three beaches, FOUR BEACHES!

France, the home of Charlie Hebdo, believes in Freedom with a capital F-you if you don't agree.  Liberte!  In fact, it is what the non-secular country worships.  We all gotta worship something, but if you build a country on freedom, then you should make it freedom for all.

It ain't!

Let's back it up.  I have a problem with even the term "burkini".  This gets us all mixed up with the idea that every Muslim woman is veiled----she isn't.  It is considered an obligation by most in the Muslim world, but not all.  Here are the terms for what some Muslimahs (female Muslims) wear:

The translation for "veil" in Arabic is hijab.  My hijab covers my head, neck and chest (so worn a little longer than in that second picture)  and I also keep my body covered in modern, modest clothes---like what you see there.  Fewer Muslimahs wear niqab which covers the face.  I have NEVER in all my life seen any woman walk around in a burqa.  It's not seen in the U.S. or in Egypt, but it is enforced by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The modest swimsuit called the "Burkini" was developed by a Muslimah.  She actually trademarked the name, so I should be typing Burkini TM.  Here is her story.

The tagline in the lower right corner is a little hard to read.  It says,

"Freedom, Flexibility, Confidence"

Remember, that "Freedom" is what France has as its foundation.  Unfortunately, the country is not big on flexibility.  Different cultural groups define freedom in their own way.  While some see the suit as an ideological costume to advertise for ISIS, I wear my modest swimsuit with a feeling of confidence!

I don't own a Burkini TM.  I own a modest swimsuit (no tradmark on that).  For a couple of years, I didn't own any modest suit at all so I didn't go swimming.  I lived in the Land of 10,000 Lakes without any appropriate swimwear.  

When our family got a sudden invite to go to a Wisconsin Dells water park with a business associate of my then-husband X2, I had to come up with something.  I did something stupid, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice.  I wore a shalwar khamees.  This long, loose, cotton/poly Indian tunic over pants weighed me down in the water.  I could barely swim!  It probably looked weird and might have even been against a few health codes.

However, it felt good to be in the water again.  I could play with my three kids and feel like a kid myself.  I could experience once again that release of stress and tension that water so beautifully washes away.

When I came to Egypt, and started to live in the middle of the desert, I didn't have to have a swimsuit---until we suddenly went on an impromptu get-away with workmates of mine.  Marsa Matrouh on the North Coast saw me once again piece together an Indian tunic and pants so that I could get into the Mediterranean.  However, for the first time, I saw some other women on the beach who had Islamic swimwear and I wanted a suit of my own.

My husband Ahmed and I went to the market and found a suit that would fit both my body and my style.  I got to wear it for the first time that trip and I felt great!  No longer were my cotton clothes weighing me down.  I could actually move and feel buoyant once again.  I could relax more since I wasn't fighting the drag downward.  I felt like I fit in as a swimmer for the first time since I had taken shahaddah---eight long years before.

That's a long time to not feel good about swimming.  That's a long time to cut yourself off from a physical activity you actually love.  That's what not having the right clothing can do to a person.

What is "the right clothing"?  It is whatever I need to feel comfortable.  If it isn't right for you, then that's OK.  I'm not living my life in Islam as a guidebook for what you have to do too.  If you are happy skinny dipping, then go for it!  

There are beaches, by the way, where nude bathing is permitted.  You know that, right?  I've been on one---although by mistake---in the Virgin Islands when I was 12.  I didn't have to strip down.  It was still my choice what to wear.  I would have rather NOT had that rotund man go without his clothes, but I could just avert my eyes; his choice and my choice.

The same is true for those in France.  If the modest swimsuit, a better moniker than Burkini TM, is something you don't want to see (as much as I didn't want to see that nudist guy on the beach) then DON'T LOOK!  The beach is often a mishmash of one-piece maillots, bikinis, and (my favorite before Islam) tankinis.  There are sun worshipers---HARAM ALEK!  and those who have to cover up from the sun.  Would anyone tell someone with sun-sensitive skin to remove whatever cover-up they have on?  Of course not!

This month, our family went back to Hurghada, which is becoming a yearly event.  Last year, when I realized that we would be at a water park resort, I went out to search for a new, more stylish, and hopefully less itchy swimsuit.  Even in what you THINK is an Islamic country (it isn't), it wasn't easy to find a suit that covered me up in a nice way.  Three-quarter sleeves don't do it for me.  Super tight isn't actually serving any purpose.  All black is a killer in the hot Egyptian sun.  Eventually, we found such a perfect suit that I could still cry with joyful gratitude.  I swear to you that my much-needed vacations are better for me having just the right suit for me.

Here's a picture of me in the pool.

Slight miscalculation.

That's me!  See?  I'm happy.  Alhumdulillah.

What you won't see is when I was really, really at peace in the ocean.  Ya, it wasn't enough that this resort had a water park and pools, it had a beach too.  So, there I was floating in the Red Sea (even just typing that is an incredible feeling) when I began to really relax for the first time in about 10 months.  I felt the water carry me, the sun shine pull me upward, and the sandy bottom of the bay reassure me that if ever I needed to stand on my own two feet, it would be OK.  I began to breathe in and expand my rib cage to hold all that fresh air my body craved.  When I released that breath, I released a lot of tension.  Alhumdulillah.  I would not have felt that freedom except for being able to swim in my modest swimsuit.

France, if you're listening, radical Muslims don't even allow their women to mix in public with men, let alone to wear any kind of pants.  The idea that the beaches of France are being populated with ISIS wannabees is ridiculous.  That reasoning is all backwards!  Moderate Muslimahs are the ones with the freedom to wear these suits NOT radicals.  By eliminating moderate Muslimahs from your beaches, you are actually kicking sand in their face.  This in turn might persuade some of them to believe that they will never have rights in your society.  When you don't agree that human rights apply to ALL HUMANS then you, France, are inhumane.

Yes, some absolutely horrific attacks have taken place in France and around the world by radicals claiming to be Muslim.  Banning modest swimwear is needlessly warring against moderate Muslimahs who also HATE ISIS.  Being such an extremist country, even though you only see that others are being extreme, will no doubt create more hatred and misunderstanding.

Speaking of hatred and misunderstanding, the Charlie Hebdo cover drawn for this week shows an ugly caricature of a Muslim woman, naked as her hijab goes flying, along with a naked Muslim man with his genitals poking out through his long beard as they run to the beach.  That caricature, unlike the modest swimsuit, is indeed protected under France's freedoms.