The recent furor over the burqini in France has made one thing clear- that freedom and choice are two concepts that are available only conditionally, and to some people. The freedom of choice, which means to be able to choose an action (or inaction) without constraint, is legitimated by some whose ideology dominates.
For example, an Israeli singer, Hanna Goor, was forced offstage by government officials at a state-sponsored event at a Tel Aviv beach last week for singing in a bikini top that she refused to cover up. Goor stated that “They made it such a big deal, and now there are new regulations they want to put on and force artists to be more modest…It’s just not right. I’m against it, and I will speak my mind about it as much as I can. It’s very important for me to sing the way I want to sing and get up on stage dressed how I want to dress.”
The current Israeli government, which is influenced heavily by orthodox Judaism, is expected to withdraw funding from such sponsored events which do not adhere to a dress code that it endorses.
In this case, juxtaposed ironically against the French burqini ban, what would you say? If you are a supporter of freedom, liberty and choice, you could not possibly agree with Goor without also agreeing with the Muslim women who wanted to dress in a more modest burqini instead of a more revealing swimsuit.
The question is not what women should wear, how much they should cover up, or how much they should reveal. The standard of “normal” is not the same for everyone but depends on so many complex factors- psyche, individual preferences, religious beliefs, body image, personal comfort, cultural conditioning, media imagery, identity- the list goes on. Who is to say that Muslim women by wearing a burkini are pledging alliance to an Islamic state any more than a bikini-wearing woman is not? How can meaning be attributed to a piece of clothing by an external entity who can only surmise such intention? Many non-Muslim women also prefer to be fully covered at a beach where the ultraviolet radiation is very high and skin exposure causes high rates of skin cancer. Can such women be told what to wear or how much to expose? By the same token, why are surfers and divers not told to wear more revealing gear? Have you ever wondered why men are not questioned over their use of either board shorts, thongs or skimpy briefs at the beach?
The real question is: WHO DECIDES?
If as humans we believe that freedom and choice are (or should be) the basic right of every human, then we should also let those rights be exercised, without reservation or condition and irrespective of who exercises them.