Burkini Ban In France - Image From The Daily Mail

Secularism and the Burkini

It is rare for a Daily Mail article to populate the majority of metropolitan facebook news feeds. Especially when it is a politically charged article. But that’s exactly what happened this week when the following photographs were captured of a woman being fined for wearing “inappropriate” clothing for the beach, after many towns instated a “burkini ban” this month.

Burkini Ban: What was shared amongst Britons?

The Lottery of Indecency - a picture showing that women are constantly told what to wear

You’ve probably already seen this image, originally in French, as it appears on many news feeds. Given the popularity of the image, it reduces a very complex issue into a purely feminist problem.

The Guardian’s Coverage

“Photographs have emerged of armed French police confronting a woman on a beach and making her remove some of her clothing as part of a controversial ban on the burkini.”

N.B. The Guardian implies the photographs originally came from French news outlet, AFP. However, the original images came from the Daily Mail and AFP interviewed a person involved in a similar incident after the story broke. This is important as The Guardian know their readers would not trust information from the Daily Mail.

Read the article in the Guardian

Buzzfeed Coverage

Burkini Ban - We Can't Win

Buzzfeed ran several widely share articles on the topic. Again, the majority centred on a woman’s right to wear what she wants.

Read more in Buzzfeed

What is the French reaction?

The Echo Chamber spoke to an American in France: “the French see it as this is the law and these women must abide by it. There’s no outrage in the French news. Most French agree with the law.”

Le Monde

“Interrogé au sujet des critiques émises par la presse internationale, le premier ministre tranche : « La France est un pays différent … La conception libérale des Anglo-Saxons n’est pas la mienne. … Le burkini c’est un signe politique de prosélytisme religieux qui enferme la femme.»”

When asked about the criticism coming from the international press, the prime minister said: “France is a different country … the liberal ideals of the Anglo-Saxons are not mine. The burkini is a political sign of religious promotion, which represses women.”

Read more in Le Monde


“Diffusées par la presse britannique, les images de la verbalisation d’une femme portant le hijab sur une plage de Nice suscitent l’incompréhension.”

Broadcast by the British press, the images of reporting of a woman wearing a Hijab on the Nice beach lead to incomprehension.

Read the article here

The Deputy Mayor of Nice on Radio 4

When asked whether a Catholic nun wearing a habit would be allowed on beaches in Nice, the deputy mayor replied: “No. The same [ban would apply].”

Read more in Christian Today

The Back Story – Secularism in France

The French Constitution

“France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs. It shall be organised on a decentralised basis.”

“La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale. Elle assure l’égalité devant la loi de tous les citoyens sans distinction d’origine, de race ou de religion. Elle respecte toutes les croyances. Son organisation est décentralisée.”

See the Constitution here

French Islamophobia

“Hollande has done very little to address the problems experienced by Algerians living in France, including growing Islamophobia.”

Read more in the Guardian

“when reporters told us that the 129 dead in Paris represented the worst atrocity in France since the Second World War, they failed to mention the 1961 Paris massacre of up to 200 Algerians participating in an illegal march against France’s savage colonial war in Algeria.”

Read more in the Independent


Given the cascade of attacks on France in the past 18 months, it seems insensitive of the British to publish these images and reduce a highly complicated issue – the burkini ban – into clickbait articles.

We may disagree with French laws, but this was a real example of Anglo insensitivity. Britain hasn’t been invaded since 1216, and so we don’t have the same need to hold onto British values in the same way as the French, who have been invaded and occupied in living memory. It is also an example where the Brits have pushed a feminist agenda, instead of discussing the more difficult topic of Islamophobia.

We hope this has offered a new perspective on a difficult topic.

P.S. Daily Mail now reporting the pictures may be staged… even though they broke the story.

Alice Thwaite

Alice Thwaite is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Echo Chamber Club. Her twitter is @alicelthwaite. She reads as many independent blogs as she can find, and uses social media monitoring to identify common opinions that liberal metropolitans hold, or where they need a little extra information.