Burka or Bikini, Niqab or Naked, female freedom or oppression?

After dozens of French councils banned abaya swimwear or ‘burkinis‘ on the beach, some being fined for it, the courts overturned the bans but some of the councils said they would continue to ban burkas on the beach in the name of freedom and security. An Italian town mayor banned women in bikinis unless they were beautiful enough to wear them! Meanwhile, Glasgow, lacking a beach, decided to issue an appropriate dress code to councillors in the wake of the killing of MP Jo Cox to ensure their fashion sense didn’t “give rise to misunderstanding”.

nudity v modesty v empowerment
nudity v modesty, female empowerment?

Whether women cover up or uncover on the beach, who decides, who offends, how far do we go so as not to offend, and how far to assert our freedoms? And who is behind all these rules? Do we blame religion, men, fashion, advertising, celebrity, beauty, the sex industry?

Come and discuss at our monthly discussion group in the Norwich Library, Tuesday 6th, 6-7pm, optional Pizza Express after.

Some of the articles up for discussion are below:

French Freedom of Expression, Burkas Incompatible?

French PM suggests naked breasts represent France better than a headscarf
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/30/france-manuel-valls-breasts-headscarf-burkini-ban-row

Topless Marianne remark by PM Manuel Valls stirs French row
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-37219723

In France, the home of human rights, a grown woman asked my permission to sit on the beach
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/27/in-france-the-home-of-human-rights-a-grown-woman-asked-my-permis/

The Death of the Bikini?

The two-piece used to represent a saucy yet uncontroversial ideal of sex, summer and youth. Now its sales are tanking thanks to a combination of sun-avoidance, fitness, politics and, of course, fashion
http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2016/aug/30/bikini-old-fashioned-dying-sex-summer-youth-sun-avoidance-fitness-politics-fashion

The Burkini Ban

Abaya Burkini Wetsuit French beach ban
Only one of these was banned on a French beach

Cannes bans burkinis over suspected link to radical Islamism
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-37056742

 

Burkini ban: First French Muslim women fined for wearing garment on beach in Cannes
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/burkini-ban-first-french-muslim-women-fined-wearing-beach-cannes-a7196466.html

French police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach following burkini ban
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/24/french-police-make-woman-remove-burkini-on-nice-beach

France Corsica brawl: Mayor bans burkinis amid tensions
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-37082637

Burkini ban suspended: UN backs court ruling as right-wing politicians pledge to keep ban
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/burkini-ban-suspended-un-back-court-ruling-as-right-wing-politicians-pledge-to-keep-ban-a7212416.html

French mayors refuse to lift burkini ban despite court ruling
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/28/french-mayors-burkini-ban-court-ruling

Opposition and Opinion on the Burkini Ban

Banning the burkini is misogynistic – and Western feminists are turning a blind eye
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/burkini-cannes-islamophobia-banning-the-burkini-is-misogynistic-and-western-feminists-are-turning-a-a7188806.html

Only warped minds would impose a burkini ban
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/only-warped-minds-would-defend-a-burkini-ban-nj96z2rr5

Any ban on burkinis is “bizarre” and against the principle of women’s equality, the Dutch government said today while dismissing far-right calls for the Netherlands to copy French prohibition of the Islamist beachwear.
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/dutch-squash-call-to-join-burkini-ban-as-bizarre-hx6x359fz

Fashion Freedom?

“Burkini Ban” Law Restricts What French Muslim Women Can Wear at the Beach
http://www.glamour.com/story/law-restricts-what-french-muslim-women-can-wear-to-the-beach

Five reasons to wear a burkini – and not just to annoy the French
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/15/five-reasons-wear-burkini-annoy-french-cannes-mayor-muslim

What Is The Difference Between A Burkini And A Scuba Diving Suit?
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sufiya-ahmed/burkini-hijab-beach-bikini_b_11587206.html

Muslim Views

The Quran doesn’t say wear hijab
https://mubarakahibrahim.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/episode-5-the-quran-doesnt-say-wear-hijab/

I created the burkini to give women freedom, not to take it away. The burkini does not symbolise Islam, it symbolises leisure and happiness and fitness and health. So who is better, the Taliban or French politicians?
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/24/i-created-the-burkini-to-give-women-freedom-not-to-take-it-away

The Burkini-Bikini False Equivalence and Your Disproportionate Outrage
http://www.theexmuslim.com/2016/08/24/burkini-bikini-false-equivalence-disproportionate-outrage/

Over in Italy…

Once upon a time in the 90s, in Italy – No bikini for “ugly” women
http://jawawa.id/index.php/newsitem/no-bikini-for-ugly-women-1447893297

Meanwhile in Glasgow…

Councillors told to dress appropriately in safety guidance following killing of MP Jo Cox
http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/14721234.Councillors_told_to_dress_appropriately_in_safety_guidance_following_killing_of_MP_Jo_Cox/

New Year’s Eve – A discussion of the sexual assault events in Germany

This is an awkward topic to raise, given the Islam-blaming from some sides, and the intersectional Islamophobia-fearing apologising from another side. In between, victims are being blamed and perpetrators being excused or demonised. Is there a middle path of understanding? Feminists have been eerily quiet and anti-immigrationists decidedly vocal, even leveraging typically feminist women-protecting arguments in their arsenal of arguments to shut borders to Muslim migrants. So, these are some of the sources we are discussing, in a free speech, non-filtered way, which means referencing them does not mean endorsement.

Europe’s Betrayal of Women

Pat Condell gives his suitably angry analysis of events:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=TIfMAP4Q1yk
Mr Condell has also provided lots of further reading in the video’s description box.

The Rape of Europe

Paul Joseph Watson provides a short, yet comprehensive, introduction to events and the wider political reaction:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=KUPuMs3E_k0

The 2015 New Years Eve Attacks in Cologne

Sargon of Akkad provides an in-depth analysis of events and the aftermath:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=WJCLSZm4-LA

Aftermath of the Cologne New Years Eve Attacks

http://youtube.com/watch?v=OjkUVJ3E2Uw

One contributor to the discussion asks: “With the authorities, politicians, and regressive “Progressives” playing hide the ball with the facts, blaming the victims and doing/saying anything to minimise the situation – and with the Feminist reactions ranging from Political Correctness Paralysis, all the way through to repulsive attempts to label ALL men and boys as dangerous rapists that need a curfew… What hope is there for a serious public conversation about what happened in Germany on New Year’s Eve?

What impact will the importing of a real “Rape Culture” into Europe have? Is it possible for this breakdown of society to be avoided? Or, is it just inevitable that Europe will deteriorate and become more and more like Sweden?”

An online commenter writes in response to an article:
German Police Investigate Dozens of New Years Eve Sexual Assaults By Pack of 1,000 Men

Feminist Kittenjoy
“This isn’t an immigration issue; this is a male issue. See also: rape culture; patriarchy; misogyny; domestic violence; crime statistics; sexual assault statistics; gun violence statistics…
Yes, I know, not all men are offenders. But an overwhelming fuckton of offenders are men.”
Reply from Potatoe666 to Feminist Kittenjoy
“It IS an immigration issue. When I get hit on in a really disrespectful way here in western europe, it is almost always from men from the middle east or nothern africa. Their culture IS more patriarchal – denying that is just positive racism. I am sorry, I grew up in a middle eastern family, I know the culture at least of my home country very well, and although there are exceptions everywhere our culture is WAY more macho. BUT!! The idiots who are only criticising sexism when it comes from foreigners and else pretend that sexism does not exist are stupid racist bigots. So, I guess, let’s be balanced, it’s not entirely black and white…”

Initial reports suggested 1000 men, 500 crimes: More Than 500 Crimes Committed On New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany:

“with 40 percent involving sexual assault… BBC News reports that “the crime spree led to criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door immigration policy.” Most suspects, police note, are “asylum-seekers and illegal migrants from North Africa.”
Thus far, the police have been met with harsh critique for the way they have handled these investigations. The attacks seemed to yield little immediate response from authorities, and the chief of police for North Rhine-Westphalia, Wolfgang Albers, has been suspended for allegedly concealing information, including the suspects’ origins. On New Year’s Eve, Germany saw attacks of a similar kind in both Hamburg and Stuttgart.”

However, later reports on the Cologne Sex Attacks: Only Three Out Of 58 Men Arrested Are Refugees, Prosecutor Reveals that:

“Just three of the 58 suspects arrested in connection with January’s mass sex attack were refugees, local public prosecutor Ulrich Bremer has confirmed. Those of migrant descent did make up large numbers of the arrested; a full list of nationalities of those accused stands at 25 Algerians, 21 Moroccans, three Tunisians, three Germans, two Syrians and an Iraqi.”

“This is about violence against women and should be addressed as such, regardless of the status and background of those suspected of having committed such acts.”

It was pointed out in the group discussion that Sweden’s sexual violence/rape rate had soared during the period of Muslim migrant influx – figures and contexts that need further examination, particularly with the scare-stats producing vigilante anti-migrant violence. In response it was made clear that only a “tiny fraction” of sex crimes in Germany are related to refugees and migrants according to a leaked police report:

“Anti-immigration campaigners and far-right groups have used the assaults in Cologne and other cities on New Year’s Eve to claim that the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers in Germany is putting women at risk. But figures from the Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Police Office) showed under 1 per cent of crimes committed by migrants in 2015 were sexual offences.”

Feminist views have ranged across the spectrum just as male responses have. One in Breitbart Says Migrant Rape Is ‘Islamic Terrorism’, Claims Cologne Police Covered Up Problem For 20 Years:

“a leading German feminist has … argued that the “grotesque” contradictions in modern feminist discourse, namely the tendency to excuse Muslim violence against women, was in fact a form of racism. She insisted that feminists should not “patronise” Muslims by apologising for their intolerance and crimes.
“Political correctness should not prevent us from free thinking,” she said, “Because it’s not about people, but about ideology.”
“You should tell [migrants]: ‘You have the same rights – but also the same obligations!’”

Other feminists seem to be avoiding the subject thinks Lara Prendergast who asks in the SpectatorWhy are feminists refusing to discuss the Cologne sex attacks?

“if the actual attacks aren’t enough to merit a reaction, then how about the suggestion by Cologne’s female mayor that women should adopt a ‘code of conduct‘ to prevent future assault. Is that not the very definition of ‘victim blaming’?”

Gaby Hinsliff in the Guardian writes that we should not shy away from asking hard questions about the Cologne attacks, but what are the hard questions?

“Just because xenophobes are fanning the flames doesn’t mean we should censor the discussion about the assaults in German cities on New Year’s Eve”

“So no wonder liberals would do anything to avoid fanning these flames, since we see in all this righteous indignation a blatantly racist old trope about barbarians at the gates. We bend over backwards to report it responsibly, to moderate the frothing rage bubbling up below the line. Quite rightly, we argue that punishing millions of refugees for the actions of a few criminals of unknown origin makes no more sense than branding all white men paedophiles because of Jimmy Savile. Or we say there have always been muggers and gropers, they’re only global news when they’re not white.

But by trying not to give succour to racists, the risk is that we end up miserably self-censoring, giving the “why can’t we talk about immigration?” brigade ammunition for their conspiracy theories. Journalism isn’t really journalism when it avoids stories for fear of how some might react. The parallels between German politicians’ discomfort over Cologne and Britain’s response to predominantly Asian gangs grooming girls in Rotherham for sexual exploitation aren’t exact, but there are lessons to be learned.

The first is that pushing victims under the carpet for the sake of cohesion is dangerous.

But the second important lesson is that, perhaps surprisingly, confronting the links between ethnicity or culture and crime doesn’t necessarily change the response all that much.

“Liberals shouldn’t be afraid to ask hard questions.”

My own personal response (as the organiser of the group but not the convener of this discussion) would be that those questions need to be asked without demonising any group in a stereotypical way, whether migrants, Muslims or men.

I agree with Condell that parts of Islam, like Islamic State/ISIL and Saudi/Iranian repression appear to be, if not are, stuck in the middle ages with their beheadings, stonings, and territorial rape in geographic and human terms. However, importing migrants into Europe could lead to liberal enlightenment rather than radicalisation or taking Europe back to the 1500s! There will always be the few, though, but that shouldn’t lead to stereotyping of all men or all muslims as rapists (nor all trans for that matter, Greer, Jeffries, Bindel etc, one of the daftest, least provable arguments ever). Inevitably most men coming from many North African and Middle Eastern countries will be Muslim, meaning that most of the rapists among them will also be Muslim. It does not make all Muslims rapists – but even Paul Joseph Watson was clear to point out he was not saying that, though he goes on to outline that Islamic texts could lead to rape culture or sexual entitlement.

I also agree, though, that intersectional feminists need to be cautious about unilateral activism against Islamophobia without distinction between versions of Islam – Sufi, Sunni, Shia, Wahabbi, Sharia (law) etc; also the distinction between Islam as faith, ideology or ruling system (Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism: The Limits of Postmodern Analysis, Hiadeh Moghissi, preface).

Is the essential question here whether Islam includes a culture of rape? Rape as spoils of war/women as property, as part of that, goes back to biblical times, not exclusively Islam.

Equally, go back 150 years or less and men could legally rape their wives as women were property in marriage. Marriage gave conjugal rights to a spouse without question until very recent protections in law.

Only in 1993, did the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights publish the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women which established marital rape as a human rights violation.

The countries which chose to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the first legally binding instrument in Europe in the field of violence against women, are bound by its provisions to ensure that non-consensual sexual acts committed against a spouse or partner are illegal. The convention only came into force in August 2014!

In the UK, the Criminal Law Revision Committee in their 1984 Report on Sexual Offences rejected the idea that the offense of rape should be extended to marital relations. Five years later, in Scotland, the High Court of Justiciary took a different view, abolishing the marital immunity, in S. v. H.M. Advocate, 1989. The same would happen in England and Wales in 1991.

Germany outlawed spousal rape only in 1997, which is later than other developed countries. Female ministers and women’s rights activists lobbied for this law for over 25 years. Before 1997, the definition of rape was: “Whoever compels a woman to have extramarital intercourse with him, or with a third person, by force or the threat of present danger to life or limb, shall be punished by not less than two years’ imprisonment”. In 1997 there were changes to the rape law, broadening the definition, making it gender-neutral, and removing the marital exemption.

Countries which were early to criminalize marital rape include the Soviet Union (1922/1960), Poland (1932), Czechoslovakia (1950), some other members of the Communist Bloc, Sweden(1965), and Norway (1971). Slovenia, then a republic within federal Yugoslavia, criminalized marital rape in 1977. The Israeli Supreme Court affirmed that marital rape is a crime in a 1980 decision, citing law based on the Talmud (at least 6th century). Criminalization in Australia began with the state of New South Wales in 1981, followed by all other states from 1985 to 1992. Several formerly British-ruled countries followed suit: Canada (1983), New Zealand (1985), and Ireland (1990).

The point of mentioning the above is to realise that the cultural and chronolgical gap between fundamentalist misogynistic Islam and Western marriage-culture is not 500 years but less than 50!