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"Burqini" is a contraction of the words burqa and bikini. The term is used to refer to a certain type of swimming garment that has come into the news recently in the Netherlands.

The burqini was designed by Lebanese Australian designer Ahiida Zanetti under the company name of Ahiida. Ahiida is an Australian company that designs and produces swim- and sportswear for Muslim women. (Actually the name Burqini is a registered trademark and it should not be used for similar swim suits that are made by other companies. The Dutch media seem not to know or not to care - although the local spelling boerkini might not fall under this prohibition). The clothes made by Ahiida are designed to be functional as sportwear, while still adhering to the Muslim ideal of modesty. Thus, a burqini consists of long pants and a long-sleeved tunic that reaches to mid-thigh. The tunic can be tied to the pants on the inside, so that when swimming or diving it won't creep up and expose any body parts. The burqini comes with a close-fitting hood (called a Hijood) that covers the head and neck, keeping the face free. All of this is made from quick-drying swim suit fabric. With a burqini, a Muslim woman can go swimming in a regular pool, during regular hours, without showing any body part that she wishes to remain unseen.

The burqini has caused quite a ruckus in the Dutch media. One swimming pool came into the news for having decided to ban the burqini from normal swimming hours. Women in a burqini would be allowed to swim during the hours reserved for fat people (No really! Apparently, there are hours for fat people. One wonders, who asked for these?). Several others also ban it, due to "reasons of hygiene". Personally I find it rather obvious that hygiene is not the reason to ban the burqini - I don't see how a burqini would be less hygienic than a normal swimsuit, being made from the same material. The whole thing fits a bit too neatly into the muslims-should-adapt-to-western-culture discussion that has been going on for some years now, with laws being proposed that would ban the wearing of face-covering clothes in public transport and such.

My personal opinion on the burqini is a bit ambivalent. On one side, I don't like the burqini. It seems an uncomfortable thing to wear in the water, and I dislike rules that say women should cover up in general. Like one woman on television said: next thing you know, we will all have to wear that instead of a bikini. On the other hand, if the burqini makes swimming possible for women who otherwise wouldn't, that would be a positive thing. We'll just see how it all plays out.

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