Je Suis Burkini…writes Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence

August 25, 2016 by Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence
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I was appalled to see reports of French policemen patrolling beaches and fining women for wearing a burkini. Jeremy Lawrence - Je Suis Burkini I was appalled to see reports... 2016-08-25 12-23-07It cannot be for the State to require women to conform to a state of undress, nor to force an individual to appear in a manner he or she considers immodest. The footage of a modest woman being compelled to remove her clothing on the beach in front of onlookers evoked imagery of humiliations meted out by Nazis; the forced shavings of beards and peiyot (sidecurls).

When I lived in Australia, the Cancer society advocated covering up on the basis that “A sun tan is skin cells in trauma.” Aside from religious or cultural reasons it is prudent to enjoy the sea air but not overexpose oneself to the Sun’s UV.

Are my rash shirt and cap acceptable but a burkini an outrage against public policy? What has happened to the liberty of Liberté, the equality of Egalité and the bridging bonds of Fraternité?

When Charlie Hebdo printed cartoons which depicted Mohammed, I defended the journal’s right to freedom of expression.

Here, too, I defend the freedom to choose to dress according to religious or cultural codes.

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence

Do I believe that people can say or publish whatever they want? Not at all – censorship is warranted when it defames, incites hatred, vilifies or objectifies individuals on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity or sexuality (this list is not exclusive).

There are certainly instances where styles of clothing or insignia might offend or intimidate; for example, the white hoods of the KKK or Nazi regalia. Where a terrorist organisation or ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is proscribed, the State might legitimately curtail public affiliation, the sporting of its colours or banners.

This is a far, far stretch from a supposed “right” of secular society to be able to go about its business without seeing symbols or cultural clothing of religion. If we prevent the wearing of a crucifix or a kippa because these “offend”, then where do we stop? If a necklace is a problem, what of the crucifixes on church steeples? Are they to be dismantled? Is that not a short step to the destruction of ancient tombs of and idolatrous temples, the vandalism of heritage in Palmyra? Of course there is no such “right” and asserting the right to see no religion is as bigoted as asserting the right to see no religion but mine.

I wasn’t a fan of the “Je suis Charlie” solidarity campaign. I believed that Charlie Hebdo was entitled to print its cartoons. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t want to identify with that journal’s persistent and deliberate desire to publish material calculated to hurt and offend. “Je ne suis pas Charlie.”

However, when it comes to the banning of religious and modest dress… the forced humiliation and undressing of religious women… the suggestion that Moslems are unwelcome on beaches… the abuse of legislation and police powers to intimidate the peaceful freedoms of religious individuals to come and go, to bask and bathe… It is offensive. It is galling. It is outrageous. It flies against all decency. It is shameful in a modern state born as a champion of liberty and equality.

Je suis Burkini!

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence is the spiritual leader of the Finchley United Synagogue in London. He was the former rabbi at Sydney’s The Great Synagogue and the Auckland Jewish Congregation .


12 Responses to “Je Suis Burkini…writes Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence”
  1. pam hopf says:

    Is Lawrence equally incensed by the religious police in countries like Saudi Arabia – even seemingly moderate UAE, where people have been arrested for kissing on the beach and wearing immodest clothing? Will he put his money where his mouth is and visit a beach in Saudi Arabia, carrying a large banner proclaiming “Je suis bikini”, or even submit an article to that effect in one of their media outlets? Or is the usual armchair moraliser, pontificating from the comfort of safe and free Australia?

  2. michael Burd says:

    Eleonora you make a good point , Can a western woman visiting any Muslim country like Saudi Arabia , Kuwait , UAE or Iran for example walk around in short shorts, or wear a bikini in the public don’t they have a strict dress code that we infidels have to abide by .
    Don’t these bigoted , racist Muslim countries most by the way that do not allow Israeli Jews to enter their shit -holes have strict dress rules. Why are so many in the west including some that post on this web site so tolerant to these intolerant back ward people ?

  3. Adrian Jackson says:

    The Supreme Court in France has rules that this Bukini ban is illegal.

    Well we all knew that the hillbilly local governments on the French Mediterranean coast were wrong and stupid.

  4. Shirlee Finn says:

    My sentiments exactly Michael Burd. Jeremy Lawrence sure doesn’t speak for all Jews, and in fact like Michael, I too am embarrassed to read this dhimmi drivel. Didn’t we and Christians live for long enough under Islam as dhimmis for him now to be defending it?

    The whole point is that France is a secular country which has had more than enough trouble with Muslims and Islam.

    This ‘garment’ is a symbol of the political, misogynistic ideology, which masquerades as a religion, Islam. It has absolutely NOTHING at all to do with the religion, it’s purely a cultural thing invented by men designed to subjugate women.

  5. Adrian Jackson says:

    MacDonald’s should stop calling there chips “French Fries”.

  6. Adrian Jackson says:

    State sponsored French terrorism saw a Greenpeace photographer killed when they blow a hole in the “Rainbow Warrior” ship in Auckland Harbour over 25 years ago.

    Then there was the French atomic bomb tests in our back yard at Murora Atoll.

    The French also go in strike if they have to work more that 35 hours a week or cant have a two hour lunch with a few bottles of wine.

    There farming is heavily subsidized as there farms are either to small or inefficient.

    The French Army has not won a war, by themselves without allied, since the battle of Austerlitz in about 1804.

    Viva La France !!

  7. michael Burd says:

    I applaud the French Government for finally taking the Muslim problem in France seriously and at least making a token attempt to tell Muslims to assimilate in France like all other minority religious groups .
    The Muslim community in France want to be treated differently to all other French minorities and when they don’t get their way they have the far left , socialists and no shortage of dhimmi Jews to fight their causes.

  8. Eleonora Mostert says:

    Oops… aren’t the Muslims already telling us what we can and can’t wear? Where we can and can’t pray? Aren’t the Muslims raping and sexually harnessing woman world wide? So what’s the problem with the French telling a Muslim to take her burkini gear off?? As for hiding bombs, she may not be fat but filled with explosives. So why are you sticking up for the Muslims who do this continuously to Westerners??? Why do they have separate rules. Where is the Muslim tolerance.

  9. michael Burd says:

    Its about time the French took the problem they are facing more seriously but I fear too little too late and Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence you don’t speak for all Jews in fact this Jew is embarrassed to read your drivel >

    • pam hopf says:

      Fortunately, Jews don’t regard rabbis as having superior wisdom, so their opinions are weighed purely on their merits – or otherwise! While rabbis are able to take services and expound on texts, this does not translate into having a grasp on other affairs, as exemplified by this article. To compare the treatment of a woman in a burkini with that of victims of Nazis is odious and smacks of making a moral equivalence between the two situations. Muslims are not the victims here. As for comparing wearing a burkini with covering up to protect against the sun’s uv, this is simply facile. He might as well compare “the white hoods of the KKK” with covering up while he’s at it!
      There is a reason the burkini is regarded with suspicion, as it is a symbol of radical Islam, which has caused havoc throughout Europe in recent years. Yet the good rabbi sees no difference between it and wearing a crucifix or a kippa. He then makes an astonishing leap between banning the burkini and asking “Is that not a short step to the destruction of ancient tombs of and idolatrous temples, the vandalism of heritage in Palmyra?” Has he stopped to reflect just which religion is doing the destroying?
      My advice to Rabbi Lawrence: just stick to praying!

  10. Adrian Jackson says:

    The three major French political leaders, Hollande, Sakozy and Le Pen, are throw backs to the fascist Vichy France during WW2 with there irrational opposition to the Burkini.

    The first two former President’s cant even maintain a marriage for long either.

    So much for French culture.

  11. Adrian Jackson says:

    If Cathy Freeman had worn her Sydney 2000 Olympics athletic outfit in places like Nice or Cannes would she be fines or arrested too?

    Nuns in a habit better watch out for the french police too.

    These French local laws are a form of beach apartheid.

    It is interesting to look at some middle aged french people who sit in the sun to much as their faces and skin looks like wrinkled leather.

    I understand the Burkini was invented by an Australian lady.

    Finally they could hardly call that rocky foreshore pictured a beach either.

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