What is a burkini?
The Islamic burkini is a swimsuit that covers the entire body of a woman, with the exception of the face, hands and feet.
The term is a contraction of ‘burqa’ and ‘bikini’, and indicates that it is a kind of burqa – forbidden in Belgium – that women must wear according to Islamic regulations if they want to go into the water in public.
According to Islamic Sharia, a woman must dress modestly and therefore always cover her body, except for her face and hands. After all, a woman should not be allowed to show her beauty – except to her husband – because otherwise she threatens to arouse lusts in men.
The burkini clashes manifestly with Western bathing and swimming culture, in which women go to and in the water in bikinis or bathing suits, and as a result people who go to those bathing places to relax are now confronted unsolicited with vestimental expressions of religiously inspired extremism. In the French city of Grenoble, among others, whether or not the burkini was allowed in urban swimming pools in 2022 led to a legal battle fought for the Conseil d’État.
In Flanders, too, the burkini ban in local swimming pools has already led to legal disputes.
The desirability of a ban.
Because the regulation to cover the body only applies to women and therefore only denies women – not men – the right to to go into the water or to stay on the beach in a Western bikini or a Western bathing suit, the garment is manifestly discriminatory in nature. Moreover, the prohibition against revealing themselves in public implies that women who do not comply with this regulation are not ‘good’ (modest) women and are responsible for arousing ‘lust’ in men.
That makes them potential victims of Islamic-inspired misogyny.
The burqa – the all-concealing Islamic garment for women – has been banned in Belgium for years. The authors of this proposal for a decree believe that this ban should be extended to the burkini, since this item of clothing is manifestly discriminatory and unfriendly to women, and is therefore at odds with fundamental European values, which include equality between men and women.
Admitting the burkini opens the door to peer pressure on women to cover up and wear a burkini. That peer pressure is a reality was demonstrated, among other things, by statements in the press by Mohamed Achaibi. The deputy chairman of the then Muslim Executive, who was still presented as moderate, wrote in a newspaper that he “demands respect for Islamic values and norms“.
As an example, he cited that “Muslim girls are no longer allowed to show themselves naked to others after puberty”. “So no bathing suit, bikini or other sportswear that clashes with this,” he added.
Contrary to what cultural relativists claim, wearing a burkini is therefore not a matter of personal choice, but a fundamentalist-inspired application of religious discriminatory morality regulations, the observance of which is monitored by the male Muslim community. Hygiene and safety can also be invoked in swimming pools to ban the burkini.
In Morocco, for example, the burkini is banned from many private swimming pool hotels for this reason. Flemish competence Since the law of 8 August 1988 amending the special law of 8 August 1980 on the reform of the institutions, Flanders has been competent for tourism, the management of the public domain and sport.
Tourism and the management of the public domain of the Flemish coastal municipalities and beaches (De Panne, Koksijde, Nieuwpoort, Middelkerke, Ostend, Bredene, De Haan, Blankenberge, Zeebrugge, Knokke-Heist) fall under the competence of the Flemish Region. Swimming facilities (sports) and preventive health care (hygiene) are Flemish community competences. It is desirable to regulate this matter at Flemish level so that there is an unambiguous regulation in all aforementioned coastal municipalities, Flemish bathing waters and swimming pools.