Red Herring tales (Part I): City of Vaasa plans to prohibit the use of burquinis

by , under Enrique

Ever heard of the burquini, a swimming outfit consisting of head scarf, tunic and trousers designed for Muslim women? The western Finnish city of Vaasa plans to prohibit the use of these swimming suits at a city committee* meeting next Wednesday. The reason? Because it is a security risk and not hygienic, according to a City of Vaasa official contacted by Migrant Tales.

The use of  burquinis in Finland is generally prohibited at public swimming pools, according to Suomen Uimaopetus- ja Hengenpelastusliitto (SUH), the Finnish swimming instruction and lifesaver’s association.

The SUH is drawing up guidelines that aims at prohibiting the use of burquinis at all public swimming pools in Finland.

Kuvankaappaus 2013-1-24 kello 10.39.28

 

France and England can be cited as two examples of how public swimming pools have treated the issue.

Two Muslim women wearing burquinis in France, which outlaws the use of the Muslim veil together with Belgium, were asked to either change into conventional bikinis or one-piece suits or leave the swimming pool.

Contrarily in England, a London Croydon council dropped the guidelines from its website that prohibited the use of burquinis for all swimmers after it sparked a backlash of protests from non-Muslims.

One of the matters one senses when speaking to the representative of the City of Vaasa and SUH, is that there has been little to no contact with the Muslim community concerning the issue.

The City of Vaasa official asked why Muslim women should be given special liberties if  men cannot wear shorts at swimming pools.

The SUH representative said that it had got in touch with the Somali association of Finland and a Somali city councillor but none of them had commented on the matter.

While safety and hygiene are important when using a public swimming pool, it’s odd that both representatives have not even bothered to explore how the issue was solved by the Croydon council, which must have addressed the same issues (safety and hygiene) that the City of Vaasa and SUH are arguing to prohibit the use of the burquini.

The question that the whole issue surrounding the use of the burquini in Finland is whether those that want to prohibit it are honestly interested in finding a compromise and a solution. That is why the arguments used to prohibit the use of the burquini are red herrings disguising a wider issue: our rejection of other cultures.

If I had to give both the City of Vaasa and SUH a grade on two-way integration, that grade would be a D- (needs improvement)!

*The City of Vaasa leisure committee comprises of nine members of the following parties: National Coalition Party (2), Social Democratic Party (2), Swedish People’s Party (2), Perussuomalaiset (1), Center Party (1) and Christian Democrats (1).  

 

  1. Farang

    Croydon council just decided to disregard hygiene and safety aspect and surrender under pressure from muslims.

    That is exactly what we in Finland must fight against. We can’t let people from other cultures come here and dictate new rules for us. We have rules here and people who come here must adapt to those, not vice versa.

    These people who demand new rules according to their own culture are the ones causing racism. If muslims start to dictate rules for Finns, it will only cause anger against muslims and therefore increases racism.

    Why can’t you understand that viewpoint?

    • Enrique Tessieri

      –That is exactly what we in Finland must fight against. We can’t let people from other cultures come here and dictate new rules for us. We have rules here and people who come here must adapt to those, not vice versa.

      This statement tells me that you have no idea what our integration act is. If you were Finland’s integration ministry, we’d end up going at each other’s throats. Your affirmation shows as well a lack of compromise and understanding of the issues. You are not the only person living in Finland nor are those that think like you. This land, this land is my land.

    • Joonas

      I hate to say this or probably will be bashed because of this, but I have to agree with Farang (except, I wouldn’t use such a strong word as “fight”). I do not think minority should dictate the new rules in Finland or have special rules just for the specific ethnic/religion group. It will have a negative affect to majority, if minority does that. That has been established many times in the history.

      I do belong to minority myself (if you consider my religion as such), but it doesn’t mean that I should have special rights. Most ridiculous things was probably the own swimming turns for Muslim women… even my Muslim friend didn’t agree with this one. I can somehow understand the gender limitation for swimming, but religion shouldn’t be such.

      This doesn’t mean that you can’t practice your own culture or religions, but you should be considerate towards the majority as well. I sometimes might go to church, even I’m not a Christian, but it doesn’t stop me to enjoy (or suffer) the tradition. And when I’m abroad I also might do other similar things, because I want to respect the tradition, even I don’t believe in them. It’s nothing away from me, but is a lot for majority.

    • Mark

      I think we should first go back to first principles in this discussion. Do Muslims in Finland enjoy the same political freedoms as other Finns?

      If the answer is yes (and it should be yes), then the question is whether other ‘minority’ groups are free to lobby on behalf of their own interest groups, because that is the freedom that all Finns enjoy.

      The idea therefore that you can decide this beforehand as somekind of blanket rule that “no ‘rules’ will ever be changed in Finland if it requested by a foreigner” is contrary to their basic political freedom, either to lobby on behalf of their own interests or to even influence political, administrative or other decision-making.

      I think it is perfectly reasonable that Muslim women would be allowed time to use public facilities in a way that complies with their cultural norms. Muslims are as much a part of the demographic and are just as entitled to have access to public services. Yes, logistically there is the question of how to accommodate them and for how long, which days etc. There are swimming pools that provide special sessions for babies, or even special sessions for athletes, or for rehabilitation sessions etc. The idea that we cannot make other accommodations for citizens just because those citizens have originated from somewhere else is plainly discrimination of a very negative kind.

      Joonas, I think your approach oversimplifies the matter and doesn’t respect basic political freedoms.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      –I do not think minority should dictate the new rules in Finland or have special rules just for the specific ethnic/religion group. It will have a negative affect to majority, if minority does that. That has been established many times in the history.

      There are all types of exceptions are rules for “minorities.” We have swimming pool hours for women, men, nude men, nude women, mixed etc… Variety gives us the opportunity to choose what is best suitable for us.

  2. Farang

    Mark

    I think we should first go back to first principles in this discussion. Do Muslims in Finland enjoy the same political freedoms as other Finns?

    No, they don’t and they should not. And why? Because muslims believe in Islam and there are parts in Islam that contradicts with Finnish laws and regulations. That is a fundamental reason for Muslims never having same political freedom as others. That is, because Islam is not only a religion, it is also politics.

    I think it is perfectly reasonable that Muslim women would be allowed time to use public facilities in a way that complies with their cultural norms.

    No. Muslim women are allowed to use public facilities, but if their culture or religion restricts them to use it by the rules, then it’s their own problem and it’s their culture to blame, not the rules.

    If muslims want to live normally here in Finland, they really should start to change their culture to be suitable with Finland.

    • Mark

      Farang

      Because muslims believe in Islam and there are parts in Islam that contradicts with Finnish laws and regulations.

      It is a well-known fact Farang, that Muslims are required to obey the law of the land in which they live. Likewise, the idea that there is ONE Islam is pathetically naive. Each culture and tradition brings a slightly different interpretation and application of Islam in everyday life.

      I thought it was hilarious that you of all people suggest that a ‘belief’ contradicts a law or regulation, as you are forever reminding us that ‘racism’ is a belief (it is much more than just a belief), and therefore ideas are not ‘illegal’, only actions. There are elements of Christianity that cannot be practiced legally in Finland – Jesus told his followers to apply the Mosaic law (Exodus 21:17, and Matthew 15:1-9) on children that disrespect their parents, which was to put them to death.

      And you confuse political freedom with political dictate. A political freedom is to campaign on any platform, provided it is within the law. Muslims are free to lobby politically and to influence political decision-making. That is a fundamental freedom, and the fact that you do not accept this shows that you see them clearly as second class citizens who should be denied what is the most fundamental political freedom and human right! Says a lot about you, and yet you want us to worry about the values of Muslim culture. I’m more worried about your idea of culture, which is clearly a danger to the freedoms and equality that citizens in Finland now enjoy!

      then it’s their own problem and it’s their culture to blame, not the rules.

      That kind of attitude is childish and immature. No public servant or authority approaches citizens in this way and for good reason. You have no place in this debate Farang until you grow up and realise what real citizenship is about.

      If muslims want to live normally here in Finland, they really should start to change their culture to be suitable with Finland.

      Well, to date, Finnish Muslims don’t have a proper Mosque in which to pray, so one can see that they already have to adapt enormously to live in Finland. Not only that, but Muslim immigrants to Finland have to learn a foreign language in order to get by. One can see that immigrants of all kinds make many accommodations in order to function in their new country, but the idea that they are not free to express their political views or to lobby for their political or cultural interests is just not right. It should be accepted as a basic right of all citizens, including foreigners. Anything less is SELLING FINLAND SHORT on its own standards.

  3. Farang

    Mark

    There are swimming pools that provide special sessions for babies, or even special sessions for athletes, or for rehabilitation sessions etc. The idea that we cannot make other accommodations for citizens just because those citizens have originated from somewhere else is plainly discrimination of a very negative kind.

    You are again distracting the discussion. This was not about separate swimming turns. This was about the burqinis, which are against hygiene and safety regulations.

  4. Joonas

    I think we should first go back to first principles in this discussion. Do Muslims in Finland enjoy the same political freedoms as other Finns?

    If the answer is yes (and it should be yes), then the question is whether other ‘minority’ groups are free to lobby on behalf of their own interest groups, because that is the freedom that all Finns enjoy.

    The idea therefore that you can decide this beforehand as somekind of blanket rule that “no ‘rules’ will ever be changed in Finland if it requested by a foreigner” is contrary to their basic political freedom, either to lobby on behalf of their own interests or to even influence political, administrative or other decision-making.

    I think it is perfectly reasonable that Muslim women would be allowed time to use public facilities in a way that complies with their cultural norms. Muslims are as much a part of the demographic and are just as entitled to have access to public services. Yes, logistically there is the question of how to accommodate them and for how long, which days etc. There are swimming pools that provide special sessions for babies, or even special sessions for athletes, or for rehabilitation sessions etc. The idea that we cannot make other accommodations for citizens just because those citizens have originated from somewhere else is plainly discrimination of a very negative kind.

    Joonas, I think your approach oversimplifies the matter and doesn’t respect basic political freedoms.

    Thanks for your reply and you have a point, Mark. I might have been little bit too hasty and as you said, oversimplified the subject. There are many minority groups (elder, handicapped people, children etc.) with their own time in some of the public swimming halls. Minorities have also their own bars (for example, gay bars) and other facilities (church, mosque) for their traditions. And those “special rights” do not bother me.

    But I’m still not quite sure, if religion should be one of these exceptions in swimming hall. For elder, handicapped people and children it is more acceptable, because they usually have some physical limitations to perform the swimming. Muslim women are in the same level with other women, so I do think “women’s turn” in the swimming hall should be enough for them as well. I do not like the idea of different gyms, shops, sport centers for Christians or any other religion groups. That doesn’t advance the equality in Finland or decrease the racism.

    • Mark

      That doesn’t advance the equality in Finland or decrease the racism.

      What equality is that? That we are all believing the same things or want to behave the same way? A public service is there to serve its local demographic, and in a way that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, disability, gender, ethnicity. That is the standard set.

      Decreasing racism is not about removing the identity or political freedoms of immigrants. One can fairly safely say that if people don’t respect these rights of immigrants and demand that they are not allowed to exercise them, then getting their own way isn’t going to make them less racist, it merely gives less reason for them to express their racism. In the meantime, a group of people have become second class citizens, which will clearly lead to a backlash.

      The way to decrease racism is to challenge those parts of racism that undermine people’s fundamental human rights and to bring clarity to the debate about cultural diversity, lest we fall into the trap of thinking that Finns are a completely homogenous culture with no diversity and which cannot tolerate any additional diversity!

  5. Farang

    But I’m still not quite sure, if religion should be one of these exceptions in swimming hall. For elder, handicapped people and children it is more acceptable, because they usually have some physical limitations to perform the swimming. Muslim women are in the same level with other women, so I do think “women’s turn” in the swimming hall should be enough for them as well. I do not like the idea of different gyms, shops, sport centers for Christians or any other religion groups. That doesn’t advance the equality in Finland or decrease the racism.

    Also, they didn’t let Finnish muslim women in on that muslim women’s turn. So in reality it wasn’t even for all muslim women, it was only for black muslim women.

    • PS voter

      Also, they didn’t let Finnish muslim women in on that muslim women’s turn. So in reality it wasn’t even for all muslim women, it was only for black muslim women.

      Were they sued for ethnic discrimination?

  6. Toiset Soundit

    “Two Muslim women wearing burquinis in France, which outlaws the use of the Muslim veil together with Belgium and the Netherlands, were asked to either change into conventional bikinis or one-piece suits or leave the swimming pool.”

    Enrique, Belgium and France (I am not sure about the Netherlands, but I think not) have not outlawed the veil, they have outlawed the burqa, a piece of clothing which covers the whole body from top to toe and which also covers the face.

    There is after all a difference between the burqa and the hijab (the veil)and subsequently with the burqini, which does not cover the face at all. I would like to point this out, because it constitutes an important difference.

    Now, I think that it was not a wise idea to ban this burqa, after all only 100 or so women wore those, and if the government really did want to ensure that people in the public sphere are recognizable or identifiable, then there was already legislation in place to ensure it. Now it seems as if Belgium and France are making laws to specifically target a certain group, i.e. Muslim women.

    Having said that, I am not opposed to women bathing in a burqini, I am not opposed to women wearing a veil, I am not opposed to women who work in a private company or in the public sector wearing a veil. I do think however that when it comes to wearing a veil when working as a public servant who is in contact with the public, that the employer, i.e. in this case the public sector, can ask women to not wear this visible sign of religious – and potentially perceivable political – affiliation.

    I think that this whole veil-discussion is just another way of marginalizing certain women. That does not mean that I do not think it is fundamentally a sign of male dominance over men, even when I know that many women use the headscarf as a sort of compromise with their men (be it father, husband, brother) in order that they may go to work, study and empower themselves. Who am I in the long run to decide in the place of these women? I must say though that when I see young girls – and then I mean 3,4,5 years, up to 12 years old – wearing the veil, my stomach turns, zum kotzen! But grown up women decide for themselves. There are also many women who decide not to wear the headscarf and who even oppose the practice or even look down on those wearing one, you have so many girls in Brussels walking hand in hand, where one girl is veiled (it is true, often with their bellypiercing ostentatiously visible) and the other is not. That’s of course because the Islamic community is very diverse. In any way you look at it,like so many things that touch on the religious and on identity, it is a multifaceted issue.

    I think that we should uphold and defend the hard-won value of freedom of religion and the right to express it in a visible way. The freedom of religion means that one can practice his or her religion, but it also means that religion can be criticized, preferably in a well-founded manner and not with a view to stigmatize the very people who practice the religion concerned. When it comes to the public sector, exceptions can be made, since the state has to uphold a certain degree of neutrality, but I agree that the way this neutrality is put into practice, i.e. interpreted, is also a valid point of discussion.

    I have worked with veiled colleagues, I have worked with colleagues of the Islamic belief, and they were all human beings.

    • Mark

      TS

      I have worked with veiled colleagues, I have worked with colleagues of the Islamic belief, and they were all human beings.

      Thanks for that TS.

  7. Farang

    And you confuse political freedom with political dictate. A political freedom is to campaign on any platform, provided it is within the law. Muslims are free to lobby politically and to influence political decision-making.

    Yes, my bad. Ofcourse they have right to campaign. I mixes some terms.

  8. Toiset Soundit

    TS

    Thanks for that TS.

    You are welcome Mark. But still I would like to see MT correcting the information about the so-called legal ban on the veil in Belgium (and France). Again, a burqa is not the same thing as the hijab, so I think that deserves a correction?

    Have a nice day MT

  9. PS voter

    There are all types of exceptions are rules for “minorities.” We have swimming pool hours for women, men, nude men, nude women, mixed etc… Variety gives us the opportunity to choose what is best suitable for us.

    i would like to go to swim with my dogs, but I aren’t allowed to do that. Am I discriminated?

  10. PS voter

    Enrique, you say that: “Contrarily in England, a London Croydon council dropped the guidelines from its website that prohibited the use of burquinis after it sparked a backlash of protests from Muslims.” However, the page on USA Today where you provided your link says almost the opposite: “All women, regardless of religion, had to wear the so-called burkini (or burquini) — an outfit consisting of head scarf, tunic and trousers — while men had to be covered from the navel to the knees.”

    • Enrique Tessieri

      –“All women, regardless of religion, had to wear the so-called burkini (or burquini)…

      It’s exactly what I said and what the story said. They wanted to prohibit the use of the burkini but then decided that all had to wear it. I think it’s a sensible decision. You do agree that proactive solutions have to be found that promote acceptance and respect.

      JusticeDemon once told me a very important fact that I tell others who work with culturally diverse groups: If it isn’t a problem, don’t make it into one.

  11. PS voter

    It’s exactly what I said and what the story said. They wanted to prohibit the use of the burkini but then decided that all had to wear it.

    English isn’t my native language, but IMHO the USA Today news clearly says that they first forced (or at least planned to force) all women (regardless of their religion) to use burkini, but that plan was then dropped. Even the headline of the news says: “London drops ‘burkini’ swimwear for non-Muslims”.

    You on the other hand seem to claim that the plan was first to prohibit the use of burkini but that plan was then replaced with the rule that all have to wear it.

  12. PS voter

    And for example, Londong Evening Standard says:

    Swimming pool’s dress code for non-Muslims is SCRAPPED


    Croydon council has REMOVED the guidelines from its website after being criticised for barring non-Muslims if they refused to comply with the dress code.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Yes, PS voter, but the burkini hasn’t been SCRAPPED. The point here is that you have two extreme examples: England and France.

      Vaasa is planing to prohibit the burkini at their public swimming pools.

  13. PS voter

    Yes, PS voter, but the burkini hasn’t been SCRAPPED. The point here is that you have two extreme examples: England and France.

    I guess you mean that burkini wasn’t banned, but that is not what you first said. You first claimed that the (later dropped) guidelines had prohibited burkinis, although in reality the guidelines had demanted the use use burkinis. You originally said:

    “Contrarily in England, a London Croydon council dropped the guidelines from its website that prohibited the use of burquinis for all swimmers after it sparked a backlash of protests from non-Muslims.”

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