Under the rules, swimmers — including non-Muslims — are barred from entering the pool in normal swimming attire. Instead they are told that they must comply with the “modest” code of dress required by Islamic custom, with women covered from the neck to the ankles and men, who swim separately, covered from the navel to the knees.
The phenomenon runs counter to developments in France, where last week a woman was evicted from a public pool for wearing a burkini — the headscarf, tunic and trouser outfit which allows Muslim women to preserve their modesty in the water.
But across the UK municipal pools are holding swimming sessions specifically aimed at Muslims, in some case imposing strict dress codes. Swimmers were told last week on the centre’s website that “during special Muslim sessions male costumes must cover the body from the navel to the knee and females must be covered from the neck to the ankles and wrists”.
Labour MP Anne Cryer, whose Keighley, West Yorkshire constituency has a large number of Muslims, said: “Unfortunately this kind of thing has a negative impact on community relations. It’s seen as yet another demand for special treatment. I can’t see why special clothing is needed for what is a single-sex session.”
The Islamic Foundation of Toronto mosque overflowed as more than 3,000 people paid their respects to a dedicated mother and her two bright and friendly daughters, whose lives were cut short in a swimming adventure gone wrong. In 2002, the family moved to Toronto from Pakistan. On July 18, during a family trip to the Thousand Islands, the two girls and their mother, Naila Yasmin, 43, were found unconscious in the Best Western Country Squire Resort pool. They had slipped out of their room early in the morning to go for a swim. Yasmin was a schoolteacher in Pakistan and worked at a Tim Hortons in Toronto while caring for her husband and four children.
Muslim parents have lost an appeal against their nine year-old daughter having to attend mixed swimming lessons with boys. The girls can protect their modesty, however, with full-length bathing suits. A court in the western city of Muenster has ruled that Muslim girls at elementary schools in Germany must attend mixed swimming classes with boys, rejecting a request from the parents of a nine-year-old girl for her to be excused from the lessons.
The parents from the industrial city of Gelsenkirchen told the school authorities that they lived strictly to the teachings of the Koran, adding that they found mixed swimming “immoral”. The administrative court said, however, that the girl could protect her modesty by wearing a full-length bathing suit dubbed a “burkini.” It also dismissed complaints that the bathing suit hindered swimming because of excessive absorption, endangering their daughter’s life. German teaching unions and education authorities have adamantly refused to segregate swimming classes in state schools at the request of parents, contending that mixing of sexes is a goal of education. The tribunal refused Wednesday to issue a temporary injunction and said it would allow no further appeal. The issue has also divided the Islamic community into conservatives and liberals who say the custom should change in Germany.
Muslim women in the northern Italian province of Bergamo will now have private access to a local swimming pool, where they are able to swim freely without traditional clothing and without the company of men. At the Siloe pool, men are not permitted to swim at designated times each week, when women’s-only hours are in effect. During such times, Muslim women can swim without their veils, burqas, or other garments usually worn in the company of non-relative males. The Siloe pool is owned by the diocese of Bergamo, who made the arrangement with local Muslim women; but the pool is also open to all Italian women during designated times.
A recent Swiss ruling against exempting Muslim students from compulsory, mixed-gender swimming classes has sparked debate over respect of the religious belief of minorities.
On October 24, a Swiss court turned down a request by a Muslim father to exempt his two sons from taking part in mixed swimming classes. The ruling stated that equality between the sexes and the success of integration should be given a priority over religious considerations. Chakib Benmakhloud, head of the Federation of Islamic Organizations, condemned the ruling saying that Muslim students in Europe should be allowed the right to take swimming classes in accordance to their religious beliefs, and that some Western countries violate such principles of religious freedom through courts and laws.
Sheikh Ounis Guergah who heads the fatwa section of the Union of French Islamic Organizations said that people ought to strike a balance; parents must teach their children modesty and dress Islamically, but if this might lead to expulsion from school, it would be in the best interest of students to attend integrated swimming classes.
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The mayor of the Amsterdam neighborhood Slotervaart, Ahmed Marcouch, has said that public schools ought to offer more space for religion, particularly Islam. According to Marouch, this would take some of the burden and responsibility off of the mosque, by allowing for a more open and public practice of religion for Muslim children and young people. Marcouch also wants creationism to be taught alongside evolution. According to him, public schools should also be more respectful of Muslim customs and holidays, and allow for space where children do not have to constantly justify headscarves, and gender segregated activities like swimming. The ultimate goal, said Mr. Marcouch, is to hope that a Muslim child can enter a public school without feeling like he has to renounce his religion.
Two Muslim mothers won a court appeal against a municipal swimming pool in Gothenburg that required them to take off their veils and body-covering clothing. The Court of Appeal for western Sweden found the city of Gothenburg guilty of ethnic discrimination, and ordered authorities to pay each of the women 20,000 kronor (or $3,000) in damages. Both of the women were wearing head-coverings, long pants and long-sleeved shirts covering their body.
It would have been unlike Samuel P. Huntington to say “I told you so” after 9/11. He is too austere and serious a man, with a legendary career as arguably the most influential and original political scientist of the last half century – always swimming against the current of prevailing opinion.
In the 1990s, first in an article in the magazine Foreign Affairs, then in a book published in 1996 under the title “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” he had come forth with a thesis that ran counter to the zeitgeist of the era and its euphoria about globalization and a “borderless” world. After the cold war, he wrote, there would be a “clash of civilizations.” Soil and blood and cultural loyalties would claim, and define, the world of states.
The article gives an overview of issues in Austrian schools such as Muslim pupils in swimming classes to biology lessons. Erich Kocina reports.
Necla Kelek, the Turkish-born sociologist and widely read author, argued in a debate that the German “multi-kulti” model is misapplied or has failed, insofar as it allows self-inflicted social isolation and discrimination – such as Muslim fathers keeping their daughters away from standard swimming lessons in school -, and that carving out new “religiously justified liberties” is not compatible with a democractic system. Her debating partner, Bishop Wolfgang Huber, pointed to the failure of the German education system as an additional cause of cultural intolerance. They agreed that successful integration presupposes some sort of shared social, cultural and civic identity.