In response to a recent wave of radical Islamic attacks on European soil, numerous right-wing movements and parties have begun campaigning for the implementation of policies which affect the expression of the Islamic faith. While many have criticised these policies as being anti-Islamic and racist, their defenders often claim that they reflect a desire to keep their nation’s secular.
In 24 towns along the French coast bans have been implemented which prevent Islamic women from being able to wear a ‘burkini’ to cover their bodies while at the beach. While most of these bans are worded to prevent “beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation”, they have been used in numerous circumstances stop Islamic women in public or force them to remove the garment.
One of these bans, in the coastal town of Villeneuve-Lebout, was ordered to be overturned by the highest administrative court in France, which called it “a serious and manifestly illegal attack on fundamental freedoms”. This case is likely to set a precedent for human rights groups trying to overturn the bans in the remaining 23 towns.
Nicolas Sarkozy, who is currently campaigning to be the 2017 presidential candidate for his right-wing conservative Les Republicains, recently announced that if he were elected president he would implement a nationwide ban on the burkini, saying that they represent the “enslavement of women”.
Outside of France, numerous other right-wing European movements have began to express sympathy and interest in following or exceeding France’s lead.
In Norway the Progress Party has recently stated its interest in banning the burkini from all of its beaches, believing it to be symbolic of radical Islam. The party has also applauded French police for following through on the ban, though it believes that the fine these women face is not strict enough. The Progress Party currently occupies just 29 of Norway’s 169 parliamentary seats but is in a ruling coalition government with the Conservative government.
In the Netherlands the far-right Freedom Party has announced its intention to reverse what it calls the Islamization of the country by banning not only Islamic garments but also closing down Mosques, Islamic schools and asylum centres, as well as banning the Koran entirely.
A recent poll has estimated that the Freedom party may be capable of securing 25-30 seats in parliament, far more than its current 12, making it the most represented party, however it may struggle to secure any coalition partners.