The raging debate about the “Burkini Ban” that’s been applied to Islamic beach-wear in France should make us grateful for America’s distinctive values.
First, we don’t make a fetish of secularism as the French do, nor do we treat religious traditions as a threat to some higher order. Second, we remain far less eager to apply state regulation to every aspect of daily life.
Because families with young children deserve to feel safe and welcome at the sea-shore, it makes sense to enforce minimum standards of modesty for beach-goers. But why force anyone to be more immodest (more revealing) than she chooses to be? Who is threatened if women choose to swim with their bodies fully covered? Should government also require chic grooming for its citizens? That could be next for secular fundamentalists in France, whose intolerance mirrors that of the Islamic fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia.