More than 30 French towns banned the “burkini” (a swimsuit that covers most of the body, worn by many Muslim women), in public beaches. The towns justified this ban by explaining that it is necessary in response to the growing terror concerns.
France’s Supreme Court suspended this ban, ruling that it is illegal. However, mayors of a few French towns have refused to withdraw the ban, claiming it is necessary to maintain public order, an argument which was accepted by at least one local court.
The ILF fully supports an unapologetic fight against Radical Islam, as was discussed in the ILF conference on Radical Islam with Raheel Raza. The international community must see Radical Islam for what it is: an extremist militant ideology, rooted in intolerance, hatred and bigotry. Radical Islam has become a global concern, and this ideology must be fought against and eradicated.
However, women who choose (out of their own free will) to dress in what they believe is a modest fashion are not necessarily affiliated with Radical Islam. The fight against Radical Islam does not in any way justify forcing women to expose themselves and criminalize modest swimwear.
The right to practice and observe one’s religion is a Human Right recognized by the UN in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Clearly this right does not allow people to violate others’ rights in the name of their belief, but as long as the religious practice is not harmful, it is the government’s responsibility to protect freedom of religion.
Often, the government must balance various rights and interests, and in cases of public safety authorities must make difficult decisions where the protection of the public must take preference. However authorities have the obligation to examine all of the alternatives while balancing these rights, making every effort to avoid infringing on rights. The ILF believes that the burkini ban exceeded that proper balance, and infringes on the right to freedom of religion without proper cause.
Responding to radical ideologies with intolerance and xenophobia plays into the hands of extremists and will not solve the problem. The ILF sent letters to the mayors of the towns which continue to uphold the ban, calling for religious freedom to be respected, and for the ban to be withdrawn immediately.