Private Eye used to run a column called the ‘Neo-philes’, listing some of the endless cases of hacks saying ‘X is the new Y’ (‘This season green is the new black’ and so on). So let me put in an early entry for the return of any such column by announcing here that ‘The Burkini is the new Hizb ut-Tahrir’.
After 18 months of terrorist attacks across the continent, this summer French and now German politicians are falling over each other to call for a ban on a new Islamic swimwear garment called the ‘burkini’. This is nonsense piled on top of nonsense. Though I do not doubt he spent some time thinking about it, the inventor of Islam had very little to say about women’s beachwear. And in any case there is no reason why non-Islamic countries have to spend any time wondering over what Mohammed did or did not say. We have our own laws and traditions and can make or change them without any reference to the Quran or Hadith.
If it weren’t for the fact that we are now used to such distraction issues, the amount of attention poured on this burkini issue would be mystifying. But of course it fits into the modern European pattern of politicians and media getting caught up on essentially ephemeral, unimportant issues to do with Islam and European culture. And that is because the bigger issues go so entirely counter to the lies we keep telling ourselves about the wisdom or success of our policies of immigration and integration.
Personally, the question of the burkini lies exceptionally low down my list of concerns about the crises facing our continent. While the German government is talking about conscripting German citizens and also advising the population to stockpile essential supplies in preparation for a mass casualty terrorist attack, I would think it highly unlikely that even one life will be saved by banning the burkini.
And while there is a very strong security justification for banning the burka (for instance here, and here), the same cannot be said of the burkini. If someone tried to carry a Kalashnikov beneath a burka they would be – and have been – able to get away with it. The same principle applies considerably less in the case of the tight-fitting burkini. What is more, the burka covers the face while the burkini does not, thus ridding the burkini argument of the apt, indeed vital, motorcycle helmet comparison.
But as I say, the Burkini is the new Hizb ut-Tahrir. Why? Because for years – under governments of left and right across Europe and as far away as Australia – any politician who wanted to sound tough about Islamic terrorism after an Islamic terrorist attack would announce that they were going to ban the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. Tony Blair said it. David Cameron said it. Everyone said it. And nobody ever did anything about it. Perhaps politicians will be more successful in surmounting the huge and terrible issue that is the burkini. But like Hizb ut-Tahrir, it has already taken on the trappings of a placebo. It is simply, at present, the acceptable thing to raise in France or Germany if you want to sound tough on an issue that is presently getting far out away from their control.
We shall see whether the next terrorist attack in France or Germany comes from a lady on the beach wearing a burkini. Or whether the next terrorist attack does not, more likely come from allowing millions of people from Islamic cultures to enter your society unchecked and un-vetted and allow foreign (often allied) governments to pump money into these countries to teach the worst versions of an already not very peaceable religion.