Saturday, August 27, 2016

Bigots, Mosques, and Burkinis

The poster says everything we need to know about those who published it: they are bigots. Bigots are people who are utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.  There are many such people all over the world. In this poster, they blame Muslims for every act of terrorism; they equate Islam and terrorism. This is Islamophobia.

Their intolerance is on display on a daily basis. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have accused each other of being bigots, but that epithet belongs properly only to one of them, arch-bigot  Trump. Almost every word that spews out of his mouth smacks of bigotry, whether directed against women, Mexicans, Afro-Americans, veterans, or Muslims, Muslims are demonized the most.

Islamophobia is increasingly rampant in many countries to judge from recent news reports. Muslim groups seeking to build mosques to accommodate their growing numbers of followers are encountering vehement opposition in communities across the US and elsewhere in the world. Trump'has now moved Islamophobia into the mainstream.

By linking Trump’s and the "alt-right" movement, Clinton says that he is "taking hate groups mainstream." This fringe movement is rampant with conspiracies and hate. Trumps attention has now offered the alt-right a new level of credibility as well as a valuable opportunity for fund-raising and recruiting.

Although Trump has publicly kept his distance from the alt-right, his critics have accused him of offering subtle cues to invite its support. The alt-right claims to endorse the preservation of white culture in the US. Its views are widely seen as white supremacist and anti-Semitic..In plain words, they are bigots. 

However, their bigotry is no longer hidden but is now openly displayed. Trumps rejection of political correctness and his tacit endorsement of alt-right has made bigotry respectable. Islamophobia can now be openly displayed and those who claim that 9/11 has taught them everything they need to know about Islam can haul out their signs again.

In the wake of perceived terrorist attacks in Europe and the US, anti-Muslim sentiment has spiked. Attacks on mosques have become more frequent, and existing and proposed mosque sites have been targeted for vandalism and other criminal acts. There have also been efforts to block or deny necessary zoning permits for the construction and expansion of other facilities.

Mosque opponents frequently claim their objections are based on practical considerations such as traffic, parking, and noise levels, but those concerns are often pretexts and mask anti-Muslim sentiments. Bigotry is the real reason.

Government officials in some areas of the US have yielded to this religious bigotry by treating mosques and Islamic centers differently than other proposed houses of worship and denying zoning permits. Even where local governments strongly support religious freedom, private citizens nevertheless often seek to intimidate Muslims into forgoing the exercise of this freedom.

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the US. The Pew Forum estimates that there are 3.3 million Muslims living in the US in 2016. But the most common figure that the US government uses is about six million. While specific figures may be debated, what cannot be disputed is the phenomenal growth of Islam. Since about 1990 the number of registered Islamic centers and mosques has tripled to more than 2,500.

Islamic Center of America, largest mosque in US in Dearborn MI

In France, there are currently 2,200 mosques, but that number needs to double within the nest few years, according to Muslim leaders. However, they believe local authorities in France are blocking applications to open or build mosques and prayer-rooms.

The demand for more mosques is unlikely to find favor with the French government, still struggling to work out common strategies with Muslim leaders to combat radicalization in France after a spate of shootings, starting with the one at Charlie Hebdo. The government is also concerned about a rise in support for the far-Right Front National.

In France as well, burkinis have been banned on beaches in several municipalities. Burkinis are designed in accord with Islamic traditions of modest dress. The suit covers the whole body except the face, the hands and the feet, while still being light enough to enable swimming. It resembles a full-length wet suit with a built-in hood.

Those who support tthe burkini bans cite as reasons the observance of secularism, risks to public order and, sometimes directly, security, underscoring how sensibilities have quickened with France in a state of emergency living under what has been termed an "extremely high" terror threat.

Beneath the clash over how to dress, or undress, on the beaches of France simmers an issue that for decades has divided the nation, and grown more complex in this time of terrorism. At least a dozen towns have banned burkini swimwear. This is the latest skirmish in a long-running duel between some members of France's large Muslim population and the secular establishment.

The highest French administrative court has just ruled against the burkini bans, but that will not stop this war. The burkini has refueled the debate over the French principle of "laicite," or secularism. This debate is unlikely to go away.  And Muslims, who feel they lost ground over this controversial issue, aren't likely to forget.

Today, enshrined in the French constitution, secularism is still being defined, debated and clarified by politicians and experts. Some Muslims and non-Muslims alike maintain that the purpose of secularism is being thwarted and the principle transformed into an instrument to regulate the behavior of Muslims.

Modest swimwear and caps are used not only by some Muslims, but also by some orthodox Jews and conservative Christians. The original burkini was designed in 2004 by an Australian-Lebanese woman who wanted clothes for modest females to play sports. She says she created the garment to give women freedom, not to take it away.

While some women cover up because of religious teachings or men tell them to, others do so because of their own idea of modesty. Burkinis aren’t threats to the freedom of women;, but the laws that ban them are. At least the French court has sided with the women, even if many French people still support the ban.


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