Daniel Boffey, Daily Mail (London), June 24, 2007
Schools have been told they should allow Muslim girls taking swimming lessons to cover themselves from head to toe in special outfits dubbed burkinis.
An increasing number of pupils are insisting that conventional swimming costumes are “immodest” and, citing religious grounds, have been refusing to wear them.
Now councillors in Ealing, West London, are encouraging local pools to stock the £29 Lycra “burkinis” and instructing local schools to let girls wear them.
Teachers have even been given details of an online swimwear company that will deliver the two-piece burka-like outfits, which cover every bit of skin from the ankle to the neck and come with a head covering to conceal the hair.
The burkini is recommended in a document from Ealing council’s Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education, which says it wants to encourage “success through diversity”.
One of the authors of the report, Nora Leonard, said: “The guidance suggests that the pools allow these burkinis and I have spoken to the firm which runs our pools and they are all in favour of it.”
About a quarter of pupils in the area are Muslim and the burkini idea was approved to prevent girls trying to cover their bodies with other, unsuitable clothing during swimming lessons.
“Schools are being encouraged to allow burkinis because of that,” Ms Leonard said.
The burkini was designed by an Australian after a group of lifeguards began a drive to recruit more Islamic lifeguards, particularly women, following violent clashes in 2005 between Lebanese Muslim teenagers and white Australians on Sydney’s Cronulla beach.
Ealing has also put forward a string of other proposals to help schools meet the needs of Muslim pupils, including setting aside designated “quiet” areas for prayer and honouring “a parent’s written request to take their child to the mosque for part of the afternoon”.
Schools are also told that it is “good practice” to “reassure parents that their children would not be asked to join in with songs that contradict Islamic belief (eg Christmas carols or hymns) or perform music that could be considered to promote lust, seduction, unrestricted mixing and consumption of drugs, alcohol or other intoxicants”.
The report adds: “As a general rule, forms of dance such as ballet, jazz, tango and disco are unacceptable if performed in a mixed environment.”
There have been controversial demands from the Muslim Council of Britain for Islamic schoolchildren to be given separate changing rooms for sports and swimming, single-sex classes for sex education, prayer rooms, new rights to Islamic worship and different uniform rules.
The National Association of Head Teachers has dismissed the demands as “completely undo-able”.
The suggestions come at a time when the Government is trying to eliminate segregation and encourage “British” values to tackle extremism.
[Editor’s Note: A similar story about the Australian “birqini” can be read here.]
Muslim hotties cover up to go swimming.