“Burkini” banned from Dutch swimming pool
Remember the “burkini”? This cover-all swimsuit made a big splash in Australia last year when its introduction allowed Muslim women to stay covered but swim and even become lifeguards. The lycra suit looked like an ingenious adaptation of tradition and technology that could help integrate Muslim women more into Australian society. Our story from January 2007 said about 9,000 had been sold so far.
Its debut in the Netherlands has not been as successful. A young woman was ordered out of an indoor pool in the northeastern city of Zwolle last Thursday after only five minutes in the water with her two-year-old son. The pool manager said users found burkinis objectionable so the woman — a convert named Liselotte Buitelaar — should swim only in special hours set aside for separate groups. Like the obese, who have their own special hours, he told the daily Dagblad van het Noorden (English here). The manager said he was afraid other swimmers would stop coming if they saw a burkini there. “It costs me clients. Money is money,” he told the daily Trouw.
Trouw said the burkini figured in The Hague’s parliamentary question time last month and Jet Bussemaker, state secretary for sport, said he thought it helped integration. In the Zwolle local council, the Socialists and Greens have protested against the ban, saying people should be able to decide themselves what kind of swimsuits they wear.
A Dutch company called Woortman Sportswear has been selling burkinis for about a year, in different cuts and colours (that’s their ad at the right). Their designer, Lebanese- Australian Aheda Zanetti, says on the website:”When a Muslim woman is participating or competing at a national or international level, the first comments made about her concern Islam or the way she dresses … By providing the appropriate clothing for the Muslim woman, who complies with religious, cultural and sports obligation, we are helping to bring out the best in Muslim woman, to prove that a Muslim woman is a role model to other women in the world, not an oppressed, no name, and no face being.”
In this Reuters video below, Zanetti says the burkini is also good for protection against the sun. Mecca Laalaa, the trainee lifeguard pictured above, tells how she can now swim after years of going to the beach with friends but never joining them in the water.