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We spoke to an organiser of the #WearWhatYouWant Beach Party protest

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Yesterday afternoon many people took part in the #WearWhatYouWant Beach Party protest outside of the French Embassy in London. This was in response to the photograph of armed guards on a beach in Nice making a woman remove her clothing, a result of the ban that prohibits women wearing burkinis in a number of French cities.

The National Student spoke to Esmat Jeraj, one of the organisers of the protest in London yesterday, to find out her views on the issue and why she decided to help organise the event.

Why did you decide you wanted to organise the #WearWhatYouWant Beach Party?

Seeing the images of the woman on the beach in Nice who was ordered to remove her top by armed officers was a real turning point. It demonstrated just how far this burkini ban had escalated where a woman was publicly humiliated in front of her children, despite not even wearing a burkini. Many of us were understandably appalled by this and decided something needed to be done - hence the idea to host a beach themed event outside the French embassy.

The ban is both Islamophobic and Misogynistic in equal parts. Once again you have others telling women what they can and cannot wear - and in this case it is unfairly targeting Muslim women. The aim was to demonstrate solidarity and support to women in France, and women the world over and also to agitate the French authorities and hopefully encourage them to repeal the ban.

Were you pleased with the turn out?

The support we received on social media was phenomenal, with women and men from across the world sharing messages of support. Many also turned up to call out the absurdity of the ban.

When France talks about the values of equality, liberty and fraternity one has to question how these are being implemented here. Instead, you have the subjugation of women by a supposed liberal democracy.

Do you worry that the burkini ban is reflective of greater issues in society concerning Islamophobia and women’s rights?

Of course one cannot isolate this ban from the broader political context. There is an understandable fear in France about terrorism, which is compounded further by the rise of Nationalist parties and rampant Islamophobia. Women, as visible adherents of Islam, have unfairly become the targets. While the burkini enables women who choose to wear it to swim freely and enjoy sports and the beach, this ban only serves to marginalise them further.

What changes do you think need to be made by the French government?

In order to promote community cohesion and integration, greater dialogue needs to be had with all parts of French society. Top down reactive legislation shall only broaden the gap and exclude Muslims.

In what ways do you think ordinary people can help with these issues?

It is important to note that this is not simply about Muslim women, but the right to choose for women across the world. It's been heartening to see the support from women of all backgrounds championing this cause and creating the space for Muslim women to have these discussions. I hope to see more groups taking this up and continuing to defend civil liberties, and this is something everyone can get behind.




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