I’ve got to hand it to Islam, it regularly forces me to confront questions I could otherwise have spent my entire life happily not giving a moment’s thought. For instance: is it ethical for the French authorities to criminalise the natural human instinct to rush to the beach cloaked from head to toe in a suffocating black body-stocking in 90 degree weather?
It’d be tempting to say ‘no’ and have done with it. I view every new prohibition as an incremental reduction in the overall freedom and liberalism of the country that enforces it. I have a general knee-jerk reaction to the introduction of bans, which is to denounce the erosion of liberty and to moan a lot.
However, in the case of the burkini – the Islamic beachwear recently banned and then unbanned by a number of French towns – I have genuinely mixed feelings which I’m going to thrash out here if only to collect my somewhat contradictory thoughts on the topic. Read the rest of this entry »