Monday, February 25, 2008

Burka bans, "Burkini" bans

Every several weeks for the past three years or so, the Dutch goverment or a right wing politician has proclaimed the need to ban burkas in the Netherlands.

An estimated 150 women wear them in this country of 16 million.

Anyhow, a side-plot to all this is the debate over the "burkini," which is basically a full body swimsuit.

"Muslim woman Liselotte Buitelaar was evicted from the 'Hanzebad' swimming pool in Zwolle Thursday. She had been swimming for five minutes with her 2 year old son Ilias when the 'bathmasters' came to tell her that there were complaints about her burkini."

-De Stentor

Aside number one: Ilias is an awesome name.

Aside number two: this is EXACTLY what used to be worn by 'western' women to beaches about 100 years ago.

Anyhow, I don't care if people wear gorilla suits in the pool, and it stuns me that people in Zwolle would feel any different. What if this were just a wetsuit? A lot of my friends in California used to wear them when practicing crazy dives into the swimming pool, because apparently it took away some of the sting of belly flopping.

More recently, top competitive swimmers like the Netherlands' own Pieter van den Hoogenband are wearing suits that are not that different.

(VDH nemesis Thorpe)

"Our regular customers found it objectionable," said pool director Hans Meijer. "We have to hold reckoning with that."

Aside one: Should I capitalize "Pool Director?"
Aside two: Is it legal to discriminate on this basis?

Similar cases where restaurant owners tried to ban women with headscarves were blown out of the water.

At least opponents of the burka have rational arguments against it; without going into the merits, those opposed said that it was a risk to public safety to have people whose faces could not be seen riding on public transport.

And the burka was a "symbmol of oppression." But one suspects the opponents really aren't that worried about the plight of Muslim women.

In any case, the burkini was an opportunity for religious Muslims to engage in a part of everyday Dutch life.

But no, management stepped in to block it.

Why? Customers found it "Objectionable" (Dutch: aanstootgevend).

Give me a break.

Meanwhile, 1 million Dutch _ that's out of 16 million men, women and children in the country _ watched Deep Throat, the movie, on Saturday.
Beaches are topless by default, and nude beaches are almost as common.

Whose morals are more funky here, Muslims who want to cover up or Dutch who want to take it off?

And more importantly, what ever happened to the good old Dutch attitude of 'don't bother me and I won't bother you."?


Laura K. said...

I thought this was a joke when I saw it.. I'm so appalled! How can such so called 'tolerant' people be so opposite?

Did you ever see the movie, Cheaper by the Dozen? The original version? The fam goes swimming and one wants to reveal more than dear ole dad will allow. The rest are basically wearing a burkini :P

I can hear it now...

"Sorry Ma'am but if you want to swim here we need to be able to see that you've shaved your bikini line like every other woman here and we'd also like to size up the size of your breasts as we have the privelege of doing with the others."

Oh I'm so clever sometimes!

Aside: I'd love if I could cover up that much and go swimming and not show all my fat rolls, where can I get one? Does one have to be muslim to wear one?

Toby Sterling said...

@Laura: I never saw the movie Cheaper by the Dozen, but I loved the book.
Steve Martin, right? Everyone hates Steve Martin, except for me.

I think your hypothetical of forcing the bikini shave is spot-on actually. This is simply a question of styles, which change radically. The bikini was introduced AFTER WWII! Shaving came much later.

As far as I can tell, people who are against the Burkini are like little children, trying to be mean to people who don't look like them because they can get away with it.

(I reinforced my opinion about this by watching some bigoted guy on the NOS tonight, with a pseudo mustache and eyes a little too close together...)

Anonymous said...

Objectionable, my foot. I find it quite endearingly smurf-like. And never mind the bikini-line shave - there'd be no call for WAXING!

Anonymous said...

I'll leave a comment on a page that hardly anybody is going to read anymore.
First of all on topic:
If you would make a curve indicating the increase in the number of burka's for each year you would not be so complacent unless you assume that after a while the curve that goes exponentially upward will flatten out again. A reasonable assumption, but you are nevertheless not making a choice between different societies. Would you like to move with your family to a strict islamic country and have your wife (have to!) dress like this everyday? No you much prefer to live as you do. Why then not oppose the strict interpretation of religion that finds it's expression in forcing (yes they see it as a religious command, however much some people might like to pretend it's the woman's choice) women to wear all covering clothes. See the religious police harassing women in islamic countries. See the comeback of religion of all denominations in a formerly secular country like Holland.

Now, off topic, reading your blog I see that it is typical the soft, reasonable "nice" approach. I grew up with that. My mother did yoga, she still does at 85, my father was an engineer. We met at the anti islam demo on Dam square. You mentioned that you couldn't use an interview with Nahed Selim because it was too whatever, while I think it was because she wasn't thinking what you hope for in a "decent" islamic woman. Whatever, perhaps I don't express myself clear enough here. Anyway, read Anja Meulenbelt's blog for once and try to voice an opinion that she doesn't like and you see soon enough what I mean by old fashioned leftwing opinions. Nowadays I prefer the rough and tumble of Geenstijl. If that, or a dislike of islamic societies, makes me a fascist as you playfully termed me, for belonging to the wrong side of the demonstration then that shows that there is something seriously amiss.
By the way, I do have a copy of a Rorty book on my shelves. Bought in Atheneum bookshop some 15 years ago I think.
I shouldn't have bothered to write this and I won't bother you no more.

Toby Sterling said...


Feel free to comment any time. I believe the right to free speech and criticism should go very far, farther even that European hate speech laws allow. However, I do believe that with rights comes the duty to use them responsibly.

To your on-topic remark:
I see the essence of your argument as
>"Why then not oppose the strict interpretation of religion that finds it's expression in forcing women to wear all covering clothes"

My answer is, I'm not as sure as you seem to be about a lot of things. In particular, I see fashion trends as expressions of people's individuality, and I don't think it should be the kind of thing that governments or anybody else regulates _ up to common sense boundaries. So: no burkas during job interviews, and no people walking around naked where children play.

Otherwise, wear a string bikini or a chicken outfit for all I care.

For what it's worth, I'm not a deeply religious person, but I also don't make the assumption that a swing toward religiousness is a bad thing. I also don't believe there was EVER a golden age of secularism in Holland _ only that secularists dominated the media for a while.

To your off-topic points:

I haven't used material from an interview with Salim for several reasons, but most importantly because I was working on a story about ex-Muslims and she doesn't consider herself ex-Muslim.

I view GeenStijl as a valuable voice in the Dutch debate, and it's one of the first places I turn to to check what's going on in Dutch news (you can find a link to them on my sidebars). The moment I started really taking them seriously was the moment they published Mohammed Bouyeri's full name, as first among Dutch media.

I'll read "Anja Meulenbelt" and let you know what I think (never heard of her).

Not sure what to make of the your comment that I take the "typical soft, reasonable "nice" approach."

I guess I'll take it as a complement. Reasonableness is a very desirable quality, in my opinion. And all too often in short supply. Politics appears to be a contest to see who can shout the stupidest thing first.

However, you have to understand that I can't let my true feelings about all issues out in public, because I have to maintain the illusion that all reporters are perfectly objective people with no opinions of their own _ as much as possible.

For instance, I bet you a beer anytime you can't guess what political party I voted for in the last Dutch national elections. (Yes, I was Dutch for 6 months until my passport was revoked when I wanted to retain dual nationality).



Anonymous said...

It wouldn't be an extreme party like the small religious parties, the SP or Wilders. I'd guess GroenLinks, but CDA, PvdA (my party for most of my life, though I started out with PSP: Pacifistic Socialistic Party at 18) or VVD seem also possible. In fact Democrats '66 would be quite likely, like my parents voted sometimes.
For years I looked for a leftwing party that would be critical of these radical islamists but it didnt exist then. Though leftwing parties had no problem mocking christians they seemed very deferential towards far more bigoted muslims.
Because they were third world and we were the bad white men our slavery history was used to put a big question mark over us while the slave trade by muslims (Barbary pirates etc) was completely overlooked.

As Wouter Bos now says: (and most likely he took the line from Nahed (SElim by the way) polarising is necessary at this stage. Always excusing our immigrants doesn't work.

I said I wouldn't bother you and here I go again!

Anyway, I meant to let you know that I had read your answer without trying to start a new discussion.

Thank you for the time and space.