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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In the News

So, I read this article today on msnbc. It decsribes how a muslim woman was banned from a swimming pool in France for wearing a "burquini," a full body swimsuit which many muslim women prefer to wear swimming.

If you've been paying attention to the news lately you might have heard that Nickolas Sarkozy has tossed around the idea of banning burqas in France (France has already banned overt religious symbols in public schools including Muslim headscarves, Christian crosses, and Jewish skullcaps). Mr. Sarkozy claims that burqas are opressive to women. Okay, perhaps they are in some cases. But some women choose to wear them. Is it not also oppresive to limit women's religious choices? Some might argue that it is also oppressive for women to be constantly bombarded with unrealistic, media-enhanced body images like we are in the states. In that case, perhaps we should make the bikini illegal? Or perhaps we should just outlaw advertising altogether?

I'm not muslim, I'm not necessarily supporting the burqa here. But I am supportive of someone's right to choose to wear a burqua. I believe in religious freedom because, as a devout Christian, I want to be able to practice my own religion with out hindrance.

So back to the article. The swimming pool claimed that they denied the woman entrance not because of her religious affiliation but because of strict sanitary standards that french pools have. Maybe this is true, the article points out that France does have unusually strict public health standards:

"These clothes are used in public, so they can contain molecules, viruses, et cetera, which will go in the water and could be transmitted to other bathers," Guillaume said in a telephone interview.

"We reminded this woman that one should not bathe all dressed, just as we would tell someone who is a nudist not to bathe all naked," he said.

Guillaume said France's public health standards require all pool-goers to don swimsuits for women and tight, swimming briefs for men — and caps to cover their hair. Bathers also must shower before entering the water."

I understand public health codes, but does anyone realize that people pee in that pool? It's true. I don't care what anyone says. People urinate in swimming pools. That's as certain as death and taxes.

Another person quoted in the article was Alan Kelyor, the mayor of the region where this incident took place. He said:

" he could not understand why the woman would want to swim in head-to-toe clothes.

"We are going back in civilization," he said by telephone. Women have fought for decades for equal rights with men, he said. "Now we are putting them back in burqas and veils."

Okay, Americans don't understand why European men like to wear tiny speedoes (although, this article sheds some light) but that doesn't mean they don't have the right to wear them and the rest of us have to deal with it! And again, is it not also "going back in civilization" to restrict people's religious rights?

I don't know about the burquini incident. Maybe it was just about sanitation regulations, if the regulations are that stringent. But, my concern is that France is supposed to be a democratic nation and I see these laws banning religious apparel as a threat to all religious people and to democracy. Furthermore, France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe and it is on its way to alienating about 5 million people which doesn't sound like a good idea to me. I think France needs to make sure that freedom of religion doesn't become freedom from religion (for those who believe). Secularism taken to the extreme can become as oppressive as any religion ever was.


In more adorable news, there was a big birthday in SLC on Monday! A 251 lb baby girl elephant was born at the SLC zoo! This is the first African elephant born in Utah ever and the first elephant of any kind born in UT in 90 years.

Don't baby elephants just turn your insides all gooey? A picture of a baby elephant can elevate my mood from hum drum to giddy. Is there any more pitifully awkward, hideously charming animal on our planet?? Oh my gosh! Happiness!

Here are some baby elephant pictures Peter and I took in Kenya:


I have another Nobel idea! Don't you think the world would be a better place if everyone had a baby elephant?!? Instead of working on something rediculous like healthcare reform, our government needs to address the issue of us, the people, not being able to snuggle a baby elephant every day! I think that is a violation of the pursuit of happiness clause.

1 comment:

Vanessa Rogers said...

very interesting discussion Leslie. I have to agree with you on your point of view as well. If someone wants to swim that way, then let them. We are about to have left over dump with your mommy :) Are you jealous?