People often comment on the clothes I wear, but I don’t mind what people think of my look. I know my style is somewhat attention grabbing, so I expect comments (positive or negative) as a par for the course. Living in a Western, cosmopolitan city like London, insures that how I choose to dress or the contents of my uterus is my own business. I’ve never been pregnant or had an abortion, but if I choose to do so, I can expect my decisions to be respected. But more of that later.

There are other parts of the Western world, where values of tolerance and equality are supposedly held in high esteem, however women’s right to choose is being called into question. The absurd outlawing of burkinis in France is an example of how women’s choices have become a political and ideological battle ground. David Lisnard, the mayor of Cannes, said: “The burkini is the uniform of extremist Islamism, not of the Muslim religion.” The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has stated that the modest swimwear is a part of “the enslavement of women.” As Asma T. Uddin pointed out in her excellent article for the New York Times, “Muslim women in head scarves and burqas are simultaneously victims, in need of a government saviour, and aggressors, spreading extremism merely by appearing Muslim in public.”

On Tuesday, a woman on a beach in Nice was approached by four armed police officers, who apprehended her on the basis that she was wearing leggings, a tunic and a head-scarf. The 34-year-old was at the beach with her daughter, and said she had no intention of swimming. According to eyewitnesses, the onlookers on the beach where shouting ‘go home’ to the woman and her daughter. Nice has also banned clothing which “overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks”. Once again, the ‘fight against extremism’ has resulted in a violation of human rights, not to mention shameless acts of Islamophobia. France has suffered many horrific terrorist attacks in the last year or so and it’s understandable the country is on high alert. But persecuting Muslim swimwear is the token gesture of a desperate government, powerless to prevent the murder of its civilians. I highly doubt that women who are ‘enslaved’ would be allowed to the beach in the first place, regardless of how they’re dressed. France’s highest administrative court has suspended the ban, deeming it “seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms”. Whilst this is a little cheering, the French right wing is still gripping on to the legislation.

Across the Atlantic, Donald Trump continues to sew the seeds of derision and discord with talk of ‘extreme vetting’ for Muslim immigrants travelling to the US. The values Trump allegedly safeguards are respect for women, religious tolerance, freedom, and equal rights for all. However, listening to one speech by the clown with a long-haired guinea pig atop his orange head, proves that he is anything but tolerant and liberal. The hatred that his rhetoric has stirred up amongst his supporters is truly frightening.

Trump’s suggestion that women should be punished for having abortions is another infringement on a women’s rights. Trump’s stance on abortion changes nearly every time he’s asked about it. However, it’s yet another example of stupid old men arguing over a woman’s basic right to control her own body. Whether we’re being forced to cover up, strip off or blamed for being raped, women continue to be used as pawns in war games, by politicians and terrorists alike.

In worrying times like these, it’s vital that we women champion our right to wear what we want and dictate of the contents of our wombs. I may not wear a burkini, or any other religious garment, for that matter, but I protect the right of other women to choose. Don’t let the current atmosphere of fear and intolerance trick you into thinking that there is an ‘us’ and ‘them’; persecution of our Muslim sisters is bad for all of us. The sphere of control that most of us have is relatively limited, so let’s use what little influence we have for good.

Feature image @khalidalbaih/twitter


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