Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Burkini Ban Won't Prevent Spread of Islamic Fundamentalism. It Will Fuel It

Who knew a full-body bathing suit was such a threat to a country's national identity? Well, apparently leaders in some towns in southern France think it's a threat, which is why they've banned the so-called burkini bathing suit from their beaches. They think that somehow, by banning the burkini, they will stem the tide of Islamic fundamentalism. But history actually shows us that banning the overt expression of religious devotion doesn't prevent the rise of religious extremism. In fact, it often does just the opposite.

Long before countries in Europe started banning Muslims from wearing face veils or headscarves, it was actually Muslim countries that were trying to prevent their people from being too steeped in Islamic observance. Many people don't know it, but Iran, which is now in the firm control of Islamic fundamentalists, was once a staunchly secular country.  In fact, the last Shah of Iran attempted to ban things like the hijab and the niqab. As is the case in France now, anyone in Iran who displayed their religious devotion in public was viewed as a threat to the regime.  But ironically, the attempts by the Shah of Iran to protect the secular state from Islamic extremism by suppressing Islamic religious observance did just the opposite.  In 1979, the people of Iran, led by Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the secular regime of the Shah and established what is now arguably the most dangerous Islamist regime in the world.

More recently, Turkey has become the latest secular state to fall to Islamists. Indeed, in just over a decade, Turkey has turned from a modern, secular state where wearing the hijab or any other conspicuous religious garb in any state institution was strictly forbidden, to a country under the near-total control of an Islamist president in the person of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who himself was once arrested and served time in prison for espousing Islamist politics.

So clearly, putting undue restrictions on religious devotion or religious practice does not prevent the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. Instead, such restrictions add gas to the fire that we call Islamic extremism. If France and any other country wants to stop the spread of Islamo-fascism, then they need to concentrate on the real threats - and folks, the burkini isn't one of them.

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