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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 24 Sept 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Burkini or Bikini: How to Handle Social and Cultural Differences

By Khaled Tashkandi

Sep 24, 2016

Most Arabs living abroad do not know how to object legally to the laws enforced by European and Western countries that ban us from practicing some of our religious obligations. The best example is the ban on donning the Niqab in some public places in Europe.

While I can understand and relate to the furious comments made by some in the social media after French policemen forced a Muslim woman wearing the burkini at a beach in Nice to take it off, I cannot criticize the French police for enforcing the law. We should not violate the laws of European countries or any other country. If we want to object to a law, we should take legal action and only do it through legal channels.

Based on this, how should we analyze the burkini issue and other issues like the ban on Niqab? How should we handle social and cultural differences when visiting France or any other country? How do we hold on to our religious beliefs and Arab traditions while living in such countries?

It was unwise for her to go to the beach wearing a burkini and then refuse to obey the police’s orders that then led them to force her to leave the beach. She should have complied with the laws of France.

We should not go on social media websites and demand that the burkini should be permitted. We have the right to protect our Arab identity and religious beliefs and so do the West

European countries want to protect their freedom and openness and pass laws that prevent attempts to undermine such freedoms. We will never be able to impose our traditions on these countries but we can practice our religion within the boundaries permitted by their laws.

The same thing holds true for Europeans who visit Arab countries. When one visits the Kingdom, he or she is expected to respect our traditions and laws. A European woman would wear the Abayas and dress modestly and not be at the beach in a bikini. They do not drink alcohol or engage in socially unacceptable practices out of respect for our culture, social traditions and laws.

Muslims who want to go to Europe should respect their culture, traditions and laws. I am not saying that we should follow in their footsteps and ask our women to wear a bikini to the beach and get drunk in bars. No, I am saying we should respect their laws. After all, European countries do not ban the construction of mosques and prayer. On the contrary, they allow Muslims and others to practice their own religions.

Recently, the Canadian government passed a law permitting Muslim women to don the Hijab. A German school allowed a Muslim teacher to wear the Niqab although the court there issued a judgment banning the teacher from doing so. Nevertheless, the school management was tolerant and allowed the teacher to put the Niqab on while the court was reviewing the case.

We should learn how to object against laws in a legal and lawful fashion and not resort to the herd mentality when we want to speak out. We must realize that “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet” as British poet Rudyard Kipling, who lived in the 19th century, said. These words reflect the nature of relations between the East and the West in terms of traditions and culture. Let us all remember the Qur’anic text that says: “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.”