Fifteen towns in France have issued bans on the full-body swimsuit worn by some Muslim women and nicknamed the “burkini,” citing public order and security concerns. According to the ordinance in Cannes, “Beach attire that ostentatiously displays a religious affiliation, while France and places of worship are the target of terrorist acts, is likely to create risks to public order.”
How do pants, a long-sleeve shirt and a head covering made of swimsuit material threaten public safety?
According to France’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, the suit is part of “the enslavement of women.” In a newspaper interview, the mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, said: “The burkini is the uniform of extremist Islamism, not of the Muslim religion.”
These explanations may seem ludicrous, but Mr. Valls and Mr. Lisnard perfectly summed up the two contradictory public order rationales that European courts all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights use when dealing with Muslim women in religious garb. According to Europe’s highest court of human rights, Muslim women in head scarves and burqas are simultaneously victims, in need of a government savior, and aggressors, spreading extremism merely by appearing Muslim in public.