When it comes to women’s swimwear, controversy nevers seems to be far away.

Seventy years ago this summer, when the bikini made its debut in on the beaches of France, the two-piece swimsuit that dared to expose a woman’s navel was considered so scandalous that it was banned in many places, including Italy, Spain and Australia. The Vatican even got involved, according to New York Magazine, saying that wearing a bikini was a sin.

Now another form of swimwear — really the polar opposite of the bikini — is causing an uproar on the French beaches. Known as the burkini, this swimsuit is favored by some Muslim women who choose to wear clothing that covers their bodies when they go out in public. And in some French towns, it is decidedly unwelcome. Villeneuve-Loubet’s ban on the burkini was challenged in France’s highest court and the court ruled that mayors do not have the right to ban the swimwear. But that is not stopping some of the towns from continuing to enforce their bans.

Concerns about the burkini seem to fall into two categories: fear of radical Islam and a belief that Islamic dress is oppressive to Muslim women. But women who wear the swimsuits say they are neither terroristic nor oppressed.

“A lot of people think the burkini is a symbol of religiosity, but it isn’t,” said Sara Elnakib, who along with her sister sells the garments in New Jersey. “I just want to go out to the beach and have fun.”

Badria Mohamed of Clifton, N.J., said: “If people can walk around with thongs and string bikinis and express themselves, why can’t others do so by covering up? Nobody is making me do this; it’s my choice.”

And, really, choice is what it comes down to. We believe that all women should be able to choose what they will wear, whether it is modest or revealing. There’s not reason the burkini shouldn’t have a place on the beach right next to the bikini.

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  • Karen Jensen September 1, 2016 at 8:54 am

    I speak as a person with zero religious affiliation. I always wear a swim rash guard top and some bicycle shorts to my water aerobics class. The top covers a large benign cyst on my shoulder that I am self conscious about and the tight fitting shorts seem to go with it. My Christian swim buddy wears similar garb for modesty reasons (none having to do with religion). We joke about looking like two Muslim women though nothing is further from the truth. We are both just modest. We notice other women sometimes wear t-shirts in the pool. I was actually relieved when I saw a women in a burkini a few times. I felt like I didn’t stand out so much. We are older women and probably wouldn’t go get our health promoting exercise at all if we were required to be physically more exposed.
    All this fuss sounds like overt discrimination against Muslim women. Let them wear what they want and are comfortable wearing. As the saying goes, girls just want to have fun. Give these women a break.

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