Across the English Channel, the warm summer beaches of England have been flooded with burkinis. At the same time, France and other European countries are caught in a bitter debate over the ban of this now highly popular outfit. In fact, since the ban, the online sale of the burkini has risen by 200 per cent. In the UK, a group of internet pranksters carried out a staged social experiment to see how people react to a burkini-clad woman being asked to leave a British beach. Unaware of the ongoing enactment, two female passers-by stopped and confronted the prankster in police uniform and told him he could not do that. “It’s religious. It’s not what terrorists wear,” one hollered. As more people on the beach began questioning the police-uniformed actor and asked for his badge number, the pranksters gave up.
Marks & Spencer’s much contested burkha-bikini hybrid, launched in the UK in March, has sold out, although it was criticised in France by politicians. While the burkini gained popularity after celebrity chef Nigella Lawson was pictured wearing it on Australia’s Bondi Beach in 2011, explaining that she did not like having to reapply factor 50 sunscreen after swimming, writer Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was “hot with indignation” over M&S’s new range. She said, “These companies might not think they are encouraging fanaticism, but they are. They’re complicit in a version of Islam that believes women must be subjugated in public.” The ban has faced criticism across the world and John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe director said: “By overturning a discriminatory ban that is fuelled by and is fuelling prejudice and intolerance, today’s decision has drawn an important line in the sand. French authorities must now drop the pretence that these measures do anything to protect the rights of women. Rather, invasive and discriminatory measures such as these restrict women’s choices and are an assault on their freedoms of expression, religion and right to non-discrimination.”