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What inspires a burqini ban?
Recent efforts to keep the burqini off French beaches may be spawned by cultural anxiety, social scientists say. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
Five French beach towns have recently banned the burqini, a modest swimwear option associated with Muslim women. Officials have cited fears about public safety to justify the policies, noting that the burqini is an unwelcome reminder of the threat of Islamic terror.

"Beachwear that displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order," reads the Cannes bylaw, according to Relevant Magazine.

However, some observers say the burqini bans are more about resisting a cultural change than safety or fashion. Muslims comprised around 7.5 percent of the French population in 2010, and that number is predicted to grow to around 10 percent by 2030.

As a result of this population shift, non-Muslim French are being forced to reconcile their sense of identity with the growing influence of the Islamic faith. And some aren't happy about it, as The New York Times reported this week.

"What seems to be a struggle over the narrow issue of Islamic dress is really about what it means to be French," the article noted.

Additionally, some French people are threatened by the Muslim community's desire to wear outward symbols of their faith, like a head covering or face veil, social scientists told the Times.

"Whereas fixed characteristics like race or skin color do not imply any judgment on French culture or values, clothing implies a decision to be different to prioritize one's religious or cultural identity over that of one's adopted country," they said.

In an effort to calm cultural anxieties, policies like the burqini bans are passed and presented as a way to shore up France's commitment to secularism. They keep religious symbols off public beaches, but they also hurt Muslim women in the process, Slate reported.

"To suggest that any woman who wears one should be seen as somehow associated with extremism and, by extension, terrorism is hateful and irresponsible," the article noted.

The Center Against Islamophobia in France is challenging the burqini ban in Cannes, but lost their first case on Aug. 13, the Deseret News reported. The organization is appealing the decision.
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