Content warning: mention of racial violence and sexual abuse.
You couldn’t make it up: an adult woman is resting with her family on a crowded public beach, wearing black leggings and a turquoise long-sleeved shirt, with a matching headscarf, the kind that covers only the hair. She is approached by four heavily armed men, who menace her with a pepper spray, to demand she remove an item of clothing, such as to expose more of her skin to public view. The officious pricks then appear to issue some form of penalty notice, her crime is: “Wearing clothes that are not respectful of good morals and secularism”
Police patrol the beach at Nice in enforcement of an ordinance imposed by more than 20 municipalities in France aimed at the unfortunately named ‘’burkini’ a piece of sportswear that bears no resemblance to the burqua. If anything it’s like a two-piece wetsuit made of fabric, but it looks too ‘Islamic’ to the French burghers, who have taken it upon themselves to regulate feminine swimwear. The 34-year-old mother, who gave her name as Siam, said: “I had no intention of swimming.” I fail to see how her treatment is other than sexual abuse at the hands of the state.
The justifications given are embarrassingly facile. It reminds the bureaucrats of the garb worn by self-styled Islamic State troops and is deemed a provocation to the secular and broadminded French public. Incredibly, the assumption that Muslim women are always attired under the coercion of male relatives is also used, to justify imposing a penalty on the women themselves. The mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet claims swimming in a burkini is “unhygienic”, he’s never worn a wetsuit in cold water then; SCUBA diving in February, we all used to piss in them to warm up. I can’t think of much less hygienic than swimming in the Mediterranean anyway, it is after all, a body of water in which billions of things shit, fuck and die.
Aside from religious observance, there are many reasons why a person of any gender might choose to cover their skin: sensitivity to light, sun- or wind- burn, allergies, injury, skin disease or disfigurement, or bashfulness, which is no crime. The garment offers protection not only from lecherous glances, but harmful ultraviolet rays, insects, jellyfish and other stingers that abound in these waters.
I think religion is bollocks, but so is the French concept of secularism, the creation of Joseph Fouché, the ‘butcher of Lyon’, who was enforcer for the Revolution’s National Convention, then Napoleon Bonaparte’s police minister, and ironically also the architect of modern policing with all its arbitrary pettiness and treachery.
So, a stupid law, that appears to apply only to female members of an ethnic minority, shows up law enforcement, and law itself, for what it has always been: the feeble posturing of inadequates in response to events they can neither influence, nor be bothered to analyse properly. The guardians of the French state are clueless as its colonial chickens come home to roost. Within living memory, that same state and its bastard offspring the O.A.S. slaughtered thousands of Algerian civilians, no surprise then, that many of its home-grown jihadists are of Algerian heritage. The death throes of the Roman Empire lasted hundreds of years; is it reasonable for the western powers to assume as soon as they’ve shut down the concentration camps, knocked off the rape and pillage and turned over the keys to the governor’s mansion they will simply be regarded as good neighbours?
Not that the R&P ever stopped in the battle for the Middle East that has raged ever since one Winston Churchill decided to switch the British Navy’s preferred fuel from coal to oil. This followed hard on a ferocious labour dispute in the Welsh coalfields resolved only by martial law, the recent discovery of petroleum in Iran and the formation of Anglo-Persian Oil (now B.P.) pretty much everything else has flowed – or rather been pumped – from that.
A youth walking the street in a hoody and baseball cap is more anonymous than a woman in a burkini. As for facial veiling, the recent obsession with exposing the face to scrutiny has been driven not by a love of openness and sociability but by the ubiquity of surveillance cameras and the invention of facial recognition software. We are not deceived, we mask up on demo’s not to scare the taxpayers but because we don’t want to be photographed, simple as that.
When I was growing up you could get in a fight at the bus stop for wearing the wrong trousers; you got beaten up for having long hair then you got beaten up for having short hair. Punks, hippies, Rastas, skinheads, got the blame for everything and were assumed by default to be up to no good; respectably dressed couples would show their disdain by spitting in your direction. “Are you a boy or a girl?” “Let’s see what you’ve got in your pocket, son.” “You’ll never get a job looking like that”. Hard to believe now that middle-management types get tattooed and shave their heads.
I will never accept anyone telling another how to present themselves, if you do that, you’re a prick.