Why an Italian atheist should thank France for the burkini affair

Yes, it’s highly uncomfortable to swim in what basically feels like a bag of fabric that drags you to the bottom.  Possibly unsafe too.  Also, it defies the purpose of going to the beach… freedom, sun on your skin, getting tanned, dusting sand off with a hand.

Then there’s the feminist argument: all women should be free to decide what to wear.  Even if it’s a stone around their neck.  Everyone should be free to choose what to wear or not wear.  Except that often, they are not.

And the neocolonial feminist argument: concealing face/body, in any form, is a way to take away freedom from women.  And if they choose to do it anyway it means they have been brainwashed and are enslaved.  So by banning the burkini we save them.

I honestly have no truth to sell.  I grew up as an atheist in country with a muslim majority which cohexisted very well with all other minorities, including atheists.  Some of my female friends wore hijabs, niquabs, chadors, some of their mums wore burkas and no one ever bat an eye.  It’s true, it was a couple of years before 9/11, and to the West muslims were a concoction of Ali Baba, the one thousand and one nights, Petra, Morocco (only the postcard picture of the djamma el-fna), smoking shisha and stoning women.

I remember going back to Italy and hearing the strangest things about what Muslims were to Italians (and I come from a big city…).  Then 9/11 happened and suddenly everyone who had spent a week in Sharm e Sheik was an expert on Islam, if you had had kebab at least once in your life you were entitled to expain the differences between shias and sunni.

Little has changed, people are still widely ignorant -my feeling is that Italians kind of beat everyone else at ignorance, but I may be wrong- but now literally everyone has an opinon about everything.  Social media did help this cause, by giving everyone the chance to speak their mind, but that’s not the only problem.  I think that right now we are experiencing first hand (and for the first time in history) what what ignorance and access to means of information means.

Before you could only speak on TV and radio if you had a reason to be there, now everything is cheaper and has a short life, so literally anyone who thinks has something to say can enjoy their fifteen minutes of fame.  And if they are too much even for a trash TV show, the doors of the web open for them…  And this is how myths are created and religious hate, racism and homophobia are spread.

Now, I firmly believe in atheism. no one will ever convince me that there’s a God, Holy Trinity, Layla, Muhammad, Yaveh… I’m sure that a lot of well meaning people have existed, some of them ended up marthyrs, some didn’t, but that doesn’t make God real.

That being said I really thank France for this (absurd, racist and islamophobic) burkini ban.  Not because it was a good idea, because it’s cearly not, but because it showed some serious coherence.  Which is important to show in this Europe where politicians convince you to vote to leave the EU and then tell you that they weren’t being serious (UK) or where we claim to grant asylum to hordes of people fleeing a war and then kick them out at the first PTSD-ed syrian who doesn’t behave like an Eton-educated man.

I’m Italian, our constitution states very clearly that we are a lay State, that religious freedom is granted to everyone (it was written after WWII, and religious freedom was kind of a big thing back then… as it should be today, fyi) and that no religion should be imposed upon anybody.

Sadly in the last 70 years religious freedom in Italy has meant:

  1. Imposing a crucifix in every room of every school (including the public ones…);
  2. Imposing the teaching of catholic religion up to the very last year of high school – which your parents can withdraw you from, of course, but unless the school has a teacher who can take care of you during that hour you are pretty much stuck in the room;
  3. Opposing in every possible way the building or opening of new mosques (all other religions are perfectly fine.  Most Italians don’t even know what the Bahais believe in and yet there are temples everywhere.  Oh wait, that’s probably because people don’t know who they are…)

So yeah… If the burkini affair had happened in Italy I would be here, for the millionth time, apologiziong for how short sighted and often stupidly ignorant my people are, since it’s happening in France I can at least rejoice at the fact that if no signs of religious belief must be shown, then it’s true for everyone.

Dear Monsieur Valls, well done.  Now please go and strip down all the nuns.

And yes, if someone brings up the argument that nuns “have chosen it as a sign of religious identity”, although I shouldn’t even be answering this… so have the women who wear burkinis.

So if you don’t want them to anymore, increase your budget on education and start teaching something useful, fight fundamentalism with EDUCATION, not with bans!


3 thoughts on “Why an Italian atheist should thank France for the burkini affair

  1. Pingback: On French beach French police forces woman to undress in public | Marcus Ampe's Space

    • Yeah.. no.. I’m not sure you got the meaning of the post… I think it’s an insane idea to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t wear. And more to the point, France proved to be just as unsure about its muslim policy as Italy..

  2. Pingback: Secularism in France becoming dangerous for freedom of religion | Belgian Biblestudents - Belgische Bijbelstudenten

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