The burkini is a type of swimsuit for women, designed in Australia. The suit covers the whole body except the face, the hands and the feet, and is worn for swimming. The design is intended to respect the Islamic traditions of modest dress. In 2016, a number of French municipalities banned the use of burkini on the basis of perceived security concerns, which sparked an international controversy.
As reported by CNN, critics of the burkini related the swimsuit to a positive affirmation of extreme Islamic views, and considered it a threat to public safety, citing recent terrorist related events in the region. However, those opposed argued that a ban on the garment was hard to enforce, as it is difficult to differentiate a burkini and beach wetsuit, leggings, or a shirt being worn as protection against sun exposure.
The bans were lifted due on the basis that they infringed fundamental human rights of religious expression. The Administrative court found that the regulation had "seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms".
Since the ruling, many of the most popular resort towns, including Nice, have lifted the restriction. Some, however, have insisted on maintaining the ban, attracting condemnation from around the world.
This issue illustrates the dilemma with which all nations fighting terror are grappling; balancing the rights of privacy and religious expression with those of national security. As the global security environment continues to evolve, the challenge for governments is to manage both the genuine security threats and the perceived threats that accompany terrorism in the community. It could be argued that the burkini ban was addressing the latter and not the former.