France’s ongoing obsession with headscarves is tangibly real and excruciatingly difficult to endure for hijab-wearing women. For centuries, and up until this very day, the country that has built itself on the pillars of liberté, égalité, and fraternite projects the polar opposite when it comes to some segments of its society.
Muslim women, constantly targeted with another law, measure, or policy that will somehow restrict their individual liberties, are some of the first victims of their own government’s undeniably discriminative legislations. Aside from colonial times, where the veil was brutally shunned down, a wave of legal decrees have continuously been rolled out in an attempt to regulate the rights of devout Muslim women since the world’s entry into the 21st century. In 2003, hijabs were banned from being worn in public schools, while just a year before that, niqabs were forbidden from public spaces. More recently, in 2021, veils for minors and in sporting competitions have also been banned. Can the country’s obsession be more obvious?
In fact, the above list is anything but complete as controversies and scandals pertaining to the veil occur almost daily. One of the last ones to have sparked up involves banning burkinis— an injunction some are explicitly trying to challenge. Muslim dating app Muzz, formerly known as MuzMatch, released a statement on Monday in which they pledged to cover the fines incurred by women wearing the modest swimwear amid the country’s heatwave.
On their website, they announced wanting to support women under this scorching heat. Hot temperatures means heading to the closest swimming pool or beach to cool down and chill: something that is quite almost impossible for hijab-wearing women in France. For that reason, Muzz revealed having “set aside €25,000 ($25,503) to pay burkini fines in France this summer” through a reimbursement-style system, per a statement written by the app creators online on Monday.
The offering also extends to non-Muslims as the dating app would like to “welcome support from allies who want to protest these unjust bans,” and will therefore reimburse those wearing the covered up swimsuit regardless of their faith.
Although the campaign was lauded by many, some took to Instagram to allege that the initiative is serving the app’s own interest before those of the women. Indeed, many Stories, as seen in the screenshots below, dubbed the seemingly altruistic effort as “opportunistic,” asserting that it neglects the difficulty of accessing public swimming pools, for instance, as a veiled woman.
“Before getting fined, you need to get into these places, and having the opportunity of wearing a burkini. They could have used the €25,000 to finance women-only sessions at swimming pools. This feels more like a publicity stunt.”
“Sorry for being bitter, but getting fined on a beach is a story from the past. Try getting into a public pool and you’ll see that you won’t even be able to make it through the gates. And if you try to be pushy, you’ll be treated like an outcast, insulted, or even assaulted. If police get involved, it’s not just fines that you end up getting, there’s a much longer process beforehand.
“Before making a post on Instagram, you should consult organizations that are specialized in the matters or at least those that are primarily concerned.
“On Swimmy, an afternoon at the pool can cost up to €50 — the €25,000 may actually serve a better purpose here.”
Needless to say, Muzz’s initiative, although problematic to some extent, is still worthy of praise as it will certainly prove helpful for plenty women. Should Muzz ever wish to double down on their decision to defend Muslim women’s right to cover, it is true that some of the terms, conditions, and overall approach, could benefit from some slight tweaking, but in the meantime, their efforts might just be enough to cruise through this unprecedented wave of heat.