Photo via UK’s Independent/ Getty Images
In the wake of the Burkini war, a violent skirmish of altogether different proportions has surfaced in France. In the southern French city of Toulon, two women wearing shorts were verbally assaulted as they made their way through an eastern neighborhood. Ten young men — allegedly Muslims — began insulting the women, who were out biking and rollerblading with their families, calling them “whores.” When the women’s spouses confronted the men, fighting broke out and the husbands and a male friend were severely beaten. One of the victims sustained severe facial fractures and another a broken nose.
Although two of the attackers were later sent to jail for their part in the brawl, the incident gained prominence on social media under the hashtag #TousEnShort, suggesting a link between the assault and Islam. Adding fuel to the fire was a statement by Julien Leonardelli, Department Secretary for the far right National Front Party in Haute-Garonne. He wrote on Twitter “Again, our freedoms are being severely attacked. Sharia is already installed.”
In early June, an 18-year-old girl named Maude Vallet said she was insulted, threatened and spat on by a group of girls while on a bus in Toulon. Another report claims a Muslim woman assaulted another young woman for bathing topless in Chateauneuf-sur-Charente on August 25.
Ironically, none of the above incidents triggered the attention and global outrage that greeted the Burkini ban. Supporters of conservative Islamism now rush to praise every hijabi achiever, and stand against injustices inflicted against them, but act with indifference when cultural clashes spin out of control and result in such criminal acts as those described in the above incidents.
The root cause behind such attacks is the self-righteous Islamism that promotes conservatism as a tool to maintain Islamic identity among Muslim communities in Western countries. It is hard to teach Muslim youth to respect others’ dress codes while indoctrinating them with the idea that covering the flesh is morally superior. This is a conundrum that will haunt Muslims, as their second-generation youth grow more defiant and detached from their local Western communities.
Some Muslims might find it unpalatable to admit, but this self-righteous Islamism will bring nothing but trouble to Muslim communities, not just in France, but in the wider Western world. Yes, Muslims have won the Burkini Battle, and got support even from the United Nations, which condemned the Burkini ban for “fuelling religious intolerance and the stigmatization of Muslims in France.”
The deafening silence surrounding attacks against local non-Muslims for their non-conservative attire, however, will equally fuel religious intolerance and the collective stigmatization of all Muslims.
Tension in France is already high, and Muslims bear considerable responsibility in helping diffuse the flames of hate. Muslims should stand for freedom and respect. There should be zero tolerance for any attack on non-Muslim women. If the Burkini has to be accepted in the Western world, then shorts, and even nudity, have to be mutually accepted by Muslims living in non-Muslim societies.