In several municipalities in France, local authorities have banned the so-called “burkini” swimsuit that Muslim women are typically used to enter the water or show on the beach and that only lets see them face, hands and feet. Some judges and the first Minister Manuel Valls have supported the decision on behalf of the secularism of the Republic and of the equality of women, of which France has been, in modern times, fervent advocate.
Other voices have been raised to argue that these women are entitled to wear any swimsuit, as long as it does not offend public morals or endanger the safety of others. The measure – by far we can be – puts us in a dilemma between our principles and our prejudices: on one hand, the freedom which we profess and defend; and, on the other hand, the rejection that awakens in us all that we associate with a creed that seems increasingly alien and hostile. The war that Islamic extremism has declared to the West – from the terrorist attacks committed in the name of islam in recent years–leads many of us to reject drawing any manifestation of Islamic culture, translate it as an act of penetration or pollution, open assault on our values. We have all become something islamofobos, at least on an emotional level, although at the intellectual level us avengamos to recognize that the majority of Muslims is not dedicated to terrorism. We believe – and I have no hesitation in including me – that a religion or ideology is responsible for their mistakes or aberrations, in the same way that Christianity was responsible for the Inquisition and other crimes committed in its name.
This news served to bring me a childhood memory. In the summers of the 1950s, I was every day at the beach, in my native Trinidad de Cuba, with one of my aunts that – from a religious experience – had understood that show in a swimsuit was little more than an obscenity and, consequently, used to put on a gown from cotton corrugated on the swimsuit, the same thing when I was on the edge of the sea than in the water. The distance from the many years, I realize that others should consider it a remarkable oddity, but no one, that I remember, came to feel offended or attacked by this outfit that my aunt was exercising his freedom and, somehow, his faith. I do not understand why such behaviour would have to raise today day – especially in the context of one of the freest in the world – greater alarm or open interdiction.
However, the problem – must be to admit – is not in these bathers swimwear, but in that it is perceived as a symbolic sign of a “culture” that we begin to judge, in the West, as the enemy that intends to subvert our customs and traditions. Muslim extremism has been successful in provoking that reaction makes us see our confrontation with the terrorist yijadismo as a cultural or religious conflict. The worst thing is that we are descending an insurmountable slope, by many who are the voices that seek to deny it or stop it. The persecution of general (not excluding mass deportations and concentration camps) in Europe–and even in the United States–could be closer than we are able to forecast, and the clash between East and West obey to a momentum that is more powerful than the sum of all our principles and good intentions.
Cuban writer, author of poetry, essays and stories.
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