Woman in a burkini

A burkini (or burqini; portmanteau of burqa and bikini, though qualifying as neither of these garments) is a type of swimsuit for women, designed in Australia by Aheda Zanetti.[1] The suit covers the whole body except the face, the hands and the feet, while being light enough for swimming. The design is intended to accord with Islamic traditions of modest dress. Zanetti's company Ahiida owns the trademarks to the words burkini and burqini, but they have become generic terms for similar forms of Islamic swimwear. In 2016, a number of French municipalities banned the use of burkini, which sparked an international controversy.


Further information: Hijab

The design is intended to accord with Islamic traditions of modest dress. The suit covers the whole body except the face, the hands and the feet, whilst being light enough to enable swimming. It resembles a full-length wetsuit with a built-in hood, but is somewhat looser and made of swimsuit material instead of neoprene.[2] Zanetti's company Ahiida owns the trademarks to the words burqini and burkini, but they have become generic terms for similar forms of Islamic swimwear.[3]

Other styles of "Islamic" swimwear include the veilkini and MyCozzie brand.[4] Zanetti criticized the mycozzie suit, claiming it used lycra and was unsafe. This was disputed by the designer of the mycozzie swimsuit.[5]


In 2014 some private pools in Morocco's tourist hotspots prohibited the use of burkini citing "hygiene reasons", which sparked a political controversy.[6]


In August 2009, a woman in France was prevented from swimming in a public pool wearing a burkini, amidst ongoing controversy about Islamic dress. The action was justified by reference to a law that forbids swimming in street clothes.[7]

In August 2016, the mayor of Cannes banned the swimsuits, citing a possible link to Islamic extremism.[8] At least 20 other French towns, including Nice subsequently joined the ban.[9][10] Dozens of women were subsequently issued fines, with some tickets citing not wearing "an outfit respecting good morals and secularism", and some were verbally attacked by bystanders when they were confronted by the police.[10][11][12][13] Enforcement of the ban also hit beachgoers wearing a wide range of modest attire besides the burkini.[10][13] Media reported that in one case armed police forced a woman to remove her clothing on a beach in Nice.[11][12][13] The Nice mayor's office denied that she was forced to do so and the mayor condemned what he called the "unacceptable provocation" of wearing such clothes in the aftermath of the Nice terrorist attack.[10][13] The ban enacted by the commune of Villeneuve-Loubet has been suspended by France's highest administrative court, setting a potential precedent for further legal challenges.[14]


The ban was supported by a number of French politicians including the socialist prime minister Manuel Valls who said "The burkini is not a new range of swimwear, a fashion. It is the expression of a political project, a counter-society, based notably on the enslavement of women."[15] Some commentators in France criticized the bans and reports of Muslim women being stopped by police for wearing headscarves and long-sleeved clothes on beaches caused outrage among members of the French socialist party and rights groups.[13] A poll showed that 64% of the French public supported the bans while another 30% were indifferent.[16]

The bans and their enforcement prompted criticism and ridicule abroad, particularly in English-speaking countries.[10][17][18] A New York Times editorial called French politicians’ "paternalistic pronouncements on the republic’s duty to save Muslim women from enslavement" bigotry and hypocritical.[19] Liberal British Muslim activist Maajid Nawaz offered a critique of both the swimsuit and its ban: "Burkini is sad symbol of Islam today going backwards on gender issues. Banning it is sad symbol of liberalism today going backwards in reply."[20] Other Muslim commentators, particularly Muslim women, have argued that the burkini gives women who do not wish to expose their body for religious or other reasons the freedom to enjoy the beach.[17][21][22][23]

Human Rights Watch also criticized the ban, stating that it "actually amounts to banning women from the beach, in the middle of the summer, just because they wish to cover their bodies in public. It’s almost a form of collective punishment against Muslim women for the actions of others."[24]


Zanetti estimates that 40% of her customer base has been non-Muslim. She stated: "We've sold to Jews, Hindus, Christians, Mormons, women with various body issues. We've had men asking for them, too."[25]

Notable wearers have included Nigella Lawson,[26] who wears a burkini not out of religious observance but to protect her skin.

The burkini has also found popularity in Israel, both among the Jewish-Haredi and among Muslims, and is called either burkini or simply "modest swimwear".[27]

In Australia, the burkini has been worn by female beach lifeguards.[1][28] They wear a special yellow and red design created by Zanetti in 2007 when Surf Life Saving Australia began to look for Muslim lifeguards in the aftermath of the anti-Muslim riots on Sydney's beaches.[25]

See also


  1. 1 2 "The surprising Australian origin story of the burkini", Sydney Morning Herald, 19th August, 2016. Retrieved 21st August 2016.
  2. Taylor, Rob (2007-01-17). "Not so teenie burqini brings beach shift". Reuters. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  3. Adam Taylor (Aug 17, 2006). "The surprising Australian origin story of the 'burkini'". Washington Post.
  4. "Filling void in modest swimwear". Retrieved 2009-09-04.
  5. Chandab, Taghred (2009-08-30). "Itsy bitsy teeny weeny burqini design battle". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2009-09-04.
  6. "No Burkinis! Morocco hotels ban 'halal' suit". Al Arabiya News. August 26, 2014.
  7. "French pool bans 'burkini' swim". 2009-08-12. Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  8. "Cannes bans burkinis over suspected link to radical Islamism". BBC News. 12 August 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  9. "Nice joins growing list of French towns to ban burqini". The Local.fr. 19 August 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 ALISSA J. RUBIN (Aug 24, 2016). "French 'Burkini' Bans Provoke Backlash as Armed Police Confront Beachgoers". New York Times.
  11. 1 2 Harry Cockburn (Aug 24, 2016). "Burkini ban: Armed police force woman to remove her clothing on Nice beach". The Independent.
  12. 1 2 Ben Quinn (Aug 23, 2016). "French police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach following burkini ban". The Guardian.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 Angelique Chrisafis (Aug 24, 2016). "French burkini ban row escalates after clothing incident at Nice beach". The Guardian.
  14. "France burkini: Highest court suspends ban". BBC. Aug 26, 2016.
  15. Kroet, Cynthia (17 August 2016). "Manuel Valls: Burkini 'not compatible' with French values". Politico Europe.
  16. "France 'burkini ban': Court to rule on beach fines". BBC. Aug 25, 2016.
  17. 1 2 "Critics say France's ban on beach burkinis absurd, illogical, raises questions over French way of integration". AFP/The Straights Times. Aug 20, 2016.
  18. "Burkini bans cause ripples in France, consternation abroad". AFP/Bangkok Post. Aug 18, 2016.
  19. Editorial Board (18 August 2016). "France's Burkini Bigotry". The New York Times.
  20. "maajid nawaz on Twitter".
  21. "'It's about freedom': Ban boosts burkini sales 'by 200%'". BBC. Aug 24, 2016.
  22. Ritu Upadhyay (Aug 24, 2016). "French burkini ban puzzles, upsets Muslim fashion designers". Los Angeles Times.
  23. "Cannes 'burkini' ban: What do Muslim women think?". BBC. Aug 13, 2016.
  24. Jeannerod, Bénédicte (25 August 2016). "France's Shameful and Absurd Burkini Ban". Human Rights Watch.
  25. 1 2 Adam Taylor (Aug 24, 2016). "7 uncomfortable facts about France's burkini controversy". Washington Post.
  26. Jones, Lucy (2011-04-19). "Nigella Lawson's burkini: can you blame her? by Lucy Jones at telegraph.co.uk/". Blogs.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  27. "אופנת בגדי הים החדשה במגזר החרדי (In Hebrew)". Haaretz. Aug 11, 2012.
  28. "Why do some people find the burkini offensive?", BBC, 20th August 2016. Retrieved 21st August 2016.

External links

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