Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Burqini Beach Party

There is just time left for you to enter The Moon Topples story competition which closes tomorrow. I have finished my entry and feel the better for it. I don’t write short stories very often as I find them too, well, short. I have read some in the past – Hardy, Hemingway, Chekov, but came to the conclusion that I preferred the novels of Hardy and Hemingway and the plays of Chekov. The only time I ever missed a station on the tube was when I was reading a Thomas Hardy short story. I was working at what used to be called Twentieth Century Fox in Perivale and ended up in West Ruislip which, I believe is somewhere in The Netherlands. That would explain the windmills of disorientation that were swirling around in my mind anyway. I don’t blame the short story for that though.

The Moon Topples competition has a maximum word length of 500 words. I wasn’t sure if that included the title or not so I played it safe and wrote 499 words of story and one word of title. That’s incredibly short, even for a short story. A believe the term ‘model of economy’ would not be out of place here. In my admittedly verbose world, 500 words is in fact a post-it note. However, it is done and I allowed myself a brief bask in that natural high that one gets from completing a project before plunging into the day's papers online.

David Aaronovitch in The Times is having himself a good old rant about how Britain is not ‘that bad’. At the risk of sparking a debate on cultural relativism, I just want to point out that we do ourselves no favours by:-

  • Claming that every other country is much worse off.
  • Assuming people who criticise the way things are would prefer to live in a fascist dictatorship.
  • Inferring that things would be much better if we all stopped whinging and handed over all spare land to Tescos because they have promised to create jobs.

Aaronovitch suggested that those of us who have certain fears about the steady deterioration of our quality of life might like to go and live:-

In France, perhaps, where the riots in the incomparably bleak suburbs or banlieues of Paris and other cities raged for weeks last year. To Australia maybe, where a mass fight between thousands of white and Middle-Eastern boys took place along the Sydney beach line last winter. Or Atlanta, where historians can be wrestled to the ground, manhandled, and held in chokey, because they’ve crossed the road.

Sorry David, we just didn’t want our hospital to be replaced by a Starbucks.

I have written before about the Sydney riots as I was in Australia at the time and witnessed just how much it rattled everyone – as opposed to quickly being absorbed into the ongoing narrative about how difficult all this multiculturalism really is. Fortunately for everyone, that week of riots in Sydney turned out to be a nadir and now, just a year later, my old home town is showing everyone how possible it is to heal these rifts with a little effort and creative thinking.

Four months ago seventeen young Muslim men and women began training to become life guards on Cronulla Beach where the riots took place and last weekend, they passed their Bronze Medallion exam that qualifies them to patrol the beaches. This was all possible because someone had the common sense to invent a swimming costume that Muslim women can wear which looks very like the traditional life saving uniform. This from The Border Mail,

The “burqini”, which has already been sold to more than 9000 women in Sydney, is suitable for surf life saving patrols and has been endorsed by the Australian Islamic Council and the mufti of Australia.

Unveiling the new Surf Life Saving Australia burqini on Saturday, 20-year-old Mecca Laa Laa (pictured) said the outfit, which covers the head and body, would give Australian Muslim women the freedom to enjoy the beach while fulfilling their religious obligations.

So no messing about with hand-wringing and navel gazing then, just a little bit of compromise, enterprise and lycra. Go surfies.

Photo from Getty Images


Meredith said...

And with global warming - I've been noticing more glare in Sydney than ever before - we will soon all have to wear those outfits on the beach, anyway, to protect against skin cancer. Actually I think that a lot of religious clothing probably has its roots in something really sensible, like protection from the elements.

swimmer6foot4 said...

I reckon they are just setting the style to come. Given the dangers of UV ray exposure (and the high level of awareness in Oz) how soon before all lifeguards are issued with this outfit?

That's so pants said...

You know what I really liked about this story (and I hope it isn't a flash in the pan as so often happens here), is that the clothing seems to be an overt symbol of 'meeting half way' perhaps as much good luck as good design. As you both point out, many surfers now wear the long sleeved UV filter shirts, so you're not setting these women up as looking 'different' and therefore placing them in a position where it is more difficult to form a bond of trust with the public. I am hoping that issues of physical contact have been resolved as well. Life guards are often called upon to rescusitate.

nmj said...

that's an interesting point, pants, the body contact, but it would be impossible to ressucitate without it, surely?

i too entered the fine mr moon's story comp, very last minute, & thru a brutal haze of lemsip, i sent it a few hours ago, but don't see it there yet, my email can be a bit loopy, so just in case there are quibbles, you can back me up i sent it in time!!

That's so pants said...

Hi NMJ - when we had the recent furore about the Muslim woman police graduate refusing to shake hands with the commissioner on graduation, Muslim authorities explained that this was a gratuitous ceremony and that Muslim women police who needed to have physical contact with men in the line of duty were exempt from the no contact obligation. I mentioned it because quite often these important details do get overlooked in the flurry of activity that follows a major community upheaval. I'm sure they've thought of it. I am equally sure that your excellent story has made it into the fabulous Moon Topples competition on time - remember Chicago midnight time is six (??) hours later than ours.

swimmer6foot4 said...

"Muslim women police who needed to have physical contact with men in the line of duty were exempt from the no contact obligation".

That's the impression I was given when lifeguard training with (male) Muslims. Same applies with Orthodox Jews, I believe.

The fact is, it is often quite difficult to identify the gender (never mind the religion) of the person submerged or in difficulty. I can't believe a trained lifeguard would ever make a distinction.

Now that's comforting to know, isn't it?