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Nice becomes latest French city to impose ‘BURKINI’ ban

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A woman wears a burkini on a beach in Tunisia.

Nice has become the latest French resort to ban the burkini, the full-body Islamic swimsuit that has sparked heated debate in secular France.

Using language similar to the bans imposed in a string of other resorts on the French Riviera, the city barred clothing that “overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks”.

The Nice ban refers specifically to last month’s Bastille Day truck attack in the city that claimed 86 lives, and the murder 12 days later of a Catholic priest near the northern city of Rouen.

Fifteen resorts in the south-east and others elsewhere in France have already banned the burkini, including the nearby city of Cannes, where three women were each fined €38 (£33) under the ban at the weekend.

Nice’s deputy mayor, Christian Estrosi, from the centre-right Républicains party, wrote in a letter to the prime minister, Manuel Valls, on Tuesday that “hiding the face or wearing a full-body costume to go to the beach is not in keeping with our ideal of social relations”.

Valls came under fire after saying on Wednesday that the burkini was “not compatible with the values of France”.

He cited the tensions in France after the jihadi attacks to justify his support for the mayors who had banned a garment he said was “founded on the subjugation of women”.

France’s Human Rights League accused Valls of “participating in the stigmatisation of a category of French people who have become suspect by virtue of their faith”.

Burkinis are a rare sight on French beaches, where a small minority of Muslim women can be seen bathing in ordinary clothes and wearing headscarves.

Islamic dress has long been a subject of debate in France, which was the first European country to ban the niqab, or full-face veil, in public in 2010, six years after outlawing the headscarf and other conspicuous religious symbols in state schools.

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Henry Sapiecha

The lady in the ‘BURKINI’. Laugh, Cry, Run or look for the 2 bombs strapped to her chest.

Volunteer surf life saver trainee Mecca Laalaa runs along North Cronulla Beach in Sydney wearing a burkini, January 13, 2007. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Volunteer surf life saver trainee Mecca Laalaa runs along North Cronulla Beach in Sydney wearing a burkini, January 13, 2007. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

In Europe, however beset by the continued weakness of the euro, Britain’s vote to defect from the European Union and the rise of the far right, a vacation is a right for oneself, a duty to one’s family. In Italy, especially, the beach doesn’t just beckon — it commands attendance.

On the beach, Italians and tourists doze, chat, leaf through magazines, minister to the old folks, play with, or shoo away, the kids, and at times take a dip in an almost-warm sea.

But, as Corriere della Sera‘s commentator Beppe Severgnini observed, it’s a summer composed of sun and insecurity, fun and fear. Italy’s peninsula isn’t just seductive for natives and visitors; it is also for the migrants who continue to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean to get to a country that has, till now, remained relatively calm about the influx. It even welcomed them — perhaps heeding Pope Francis’ passionate plea for tolerance toward immigrants.

That toleration is breaking down now, however, out of a growing fear that agents of Islamic State lurk among the migrants, ready to unleash more terror on a European state that has suffered relatively little. That last fact allowed Interior Minister Angelino Alfano to declare that he would not go down a road that, were it not so serious, would have otherwise seemed a product of the August silly season: a ban on Muslim women wearing an article of clothing called a “burkini.”

A burkini is a linguistic cross between a burka and a bikini. But it is most of the former with none of the latter. Likely invented in 2004 in Australia — another beach-worshipping nation — it is a one-piece swimsuit that covers the body, with only the face, hands and feet exposed.

It seemed to cause no great fuss in Australia. But it did in Paris in 2009, when a woman wearing one was banned from swimming in a public pool. Now some French resorts, starting with the classiest, Cannes, have ruled the burkini against the law and levied fines on those defying the ban.

It hasn’t stopped at the beach resorts. Looking a little embarrassed (as well he might), French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Wednesday that he supported mayors who had banned the garment because it is “not compatible with the values of France.” He did not announce a national ban, though.

Valls and the various mayors are appealing to France’s strict secularism, which bans all wearing of religious symbols in public institutions, though not, until now, on beaches. Secularism has been a national choice for a century. But applying it to Muslim women who wish to remain modest, as seems to be the case, tips into legal extremism and makes the state look ridiculous.

Critics say the ban could provoke a violent reaction from Islamist terrorists, in a country that has had more than its share of attacks. Indeed, that was the main reason Alfano, the Italian minister, gave for rejecting a burkini ban. He received a justified rebuke from center-right Senator Lucio Malan, who said that laws should not be adopted, or not adopted, based on presumed threats.

Both the far right and center right are beating hard on the drum of fear. The French mayors who have banned the burkini are largely center right. In Italy, the most right wing of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s TV channels, Canale 4, broadcast on Tuesday a program that featured the town of Mirandola, which was the epicenter of a serious earthquake in 2012 and where a beloved church remains unusable.

Yet a new mosque has opened in the town, built with public funds, as well as money from Qatar. Citizens, massed in the square, screamed “Shame! Shame!” at the lonely spokesman from the governing center-left Democratic Party, whose plea for understanding seemed to enrage them more.

The miasma of fear spreads across the West, prompted by massacres in France and the United States, by the continuing official police warnings of the “not if but when” variety, by the evident enthusiastic ruthlessness of Islamic State and other terrorist groups, as well as freelance murderers who act in their names after brief exposure to their methods on the Internet.

There seems no point in saying that more victims die in highway accidents in a month than terrorism in a year, nor that Islamic State is losing territory in Syria, Libya and Iraq.

The fear of evil hidden in the community is too great for that kind of reckoning. It has become a political fact on the ground, which causes leaders who probably know better to back futile and perhaps illegal bans.

Donald Trump has long known the power of the fear of terrorism, and his speech this past week on immigration was one of his most carefully constructed. That isn’t saying much because many of his remarks seemed streams of reactionary consciousness. But one proposal was actually doable — if still extreme. Trump pulled back from his blanket temporary ban on all Muslim visitors to the United States and called instead for a ban confined to nations where terrorism was out of control and for an “ideological test” on those who did seek to come to the United States.

Peter Feaver, a former George W. Bush official who signed a letter along with 50 top Republican former national-security officials saying they would not vote for Trump, said it was a “surprisingly serious” speech. He added, though, that “the good parts are not new and the new parts are not good.”

It was serious, though, because Trump knows he has to be credible on the issue. This is what people beyond the roughly 30 percent of the population who strongly believe in him are fearful about — and fearful for their children.

This is big politics, which can make a center leftist like Valls endorse nonsense because, if he doesn’t, his already unpopular government may slide into toxicity. This is the largest element that created the majority in Britain for Brexit. This is a defining period in the West’s relations with the Muslim world.

One that fear, even on sunny beaches, makes it very hard to manage.

About the Author

John Lloyd co-founded the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, where he is Senior Research Fellow. Lloyd has written several books, including What the Media Are Doing to Our Politics.
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Henry Sapiecha

 

 

Abortion is usually a lonely experience – that’s why I openly talk about mine

Technically, I wasn’t alone when I had my abortion. There was a doctor at my feet. A nurse at my head. She offered to hold my hand, but I dug my fingernails into my palms instead – hoping one type of pain might distract from another. I wasn’t alone, but in so many ways, I was.

An hour later, I returned to the waiting room. My not-quite-boyfriend’s chin was folded against his chest. I poked his shoulder and motioned toward the door.

woman-sits-on-window-edge image www.goodgirlsgo.com

It may take two people to get pregnant, but only one will feel the physical effects. 

“Let’s go,” I said.

I tried to slip my arm through his as we walked through the parking lot on that frigid Chicago morning, but he was stiff and unresponsive. I pulled back and held my elbows tight instead.

I’ll never know what was going through his mind during those moments that are still so vivid for me: the morning I choked out the words “I’m pregnant” on the phone; the day I showed him a Post-it note where a nurse had scribbled a due date that I tried to forget; the night we drank too much wine because it didn’t matter if I drank – I wasn’t keeping it. (I still felt guilty and cried.)

I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him, either. But his experience is his, and mine is mine, and they parted ways shortly after that walk through the cold parking lot.

Eighty-three percent of women who have abortions are unmarried. Which makes sense. For most single women, I imagine that having a child is more daunting than for married ones.

No matter a woman’s marital status, though, abortion can be a lonely experience. It may take two people to get pregnant, but only one will feel the physical effects. Only one can ultimately make the decision of how to handle what’s happening with her body. Thankfully, we still have that decision to make, despite those who try to take it away.

The stigma surrounding abortion further isolates those of us who’ve been through it. It’s not something we’re supposed to talk about. We grieve quietly. Or we don’t. But we don’t dare tell anyone that we didn’t feel grief. We’re expected to agonise over the decision, even though for many, it’s a no-brainer. And while I did feel anxious and sad going through mine, I know that that’s not true for everyone.

I didn’t tell many people about my abortion, and I told even fewer about the emotional turmoil I experienced around it.

The man who got me pregnant and I spent about eight months together. At the time, I thought he was passionate. Looking back, manipulative is a better word. There were insults and accusations that shouldn’t come from the mouth of someone who claims to love you. Through unfounded assumptions about me and random men, he’d often make me apologise for things that never happened. His jealous temper might have stemmed from his intimate awareness of how easy it is to lie. He’d had another girlfriend all along.

About a week after the cold walk through the parking lot, he left his phone at my apartment and the screen lit up with evidence as I scrolled through his texts: “I love you”; “I’ll be home soon, babe”; and “What should I make for dinner?” A seemingly happy relationship formed between work and meals and errands. I could see myself slotted in between an occasional “Where are you?” and “Come home.” But otherwise, their life together seemed shockingly whole.

I was ashamed for not seeing the truth sooner, for letting him control me through my insecurities for so long. And it was terrifying to suddenly lose the one person who had been there through the decision to end my pregnancy, to end our pregnancy. Part of me wanted to shut the phone and pretend I didn’t know.

When I confronted him and ended things, relief became the dominating emotion. I’d made the right decision. And I was freed from a future that scared me even more than being alone.

I began sharing my experience by journaling through tears and with shaky hands. And then I kept writing, through an increasing level of clarity and self-forgiveness. Writing became my therapy. Eventually, it struck me that other women probably needed to share their stories as badly as I did. I began to talk about my abortion with friends, and discovered more and more women who had stories to share, too. Those who didn’t were still open and supportive when hearing mine.

These stories were complicated to tell, but it’s not so complicated to listen. The #ShoutYourAbortion campaign has tapped into this desire to share our stories. Through the hashtag and downloadable posters, women are reclaiming the conversation by refusing to be silent about their decision to end their pregnancies.

These stories can be legally powerful, too. In the recent Supreme Court case that struck down Texas’ abortion restrictions, 200 women filed friend-of-the-court briefs, names attached, describing their abortion experiences.

Ultimately, I healed by myself, without the help of a partner. Hearing other women’s stories over the years helped me realise that I was strong enough to get through it without him. I hope this one will serve a similar purpose for someone else. I hope she knows that she’s strong enough on her own – and that she’s not alone.

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The Washington Post 

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Henry Sapiecha