Who would have thought modest swimwear would start quite a stir in the Muslim world as well as non-Muslim. Burkini as it is called; is a garb suited for the very modest Muslim women who wants to swim without exposing her body parts.
The head to toe swim suit designed by a Lebonese-Australian woman named Ahdea Zanetti-was struggling to find an outfit suitable for her active lifestyle which included passion for sports. Her struggle to find appropriate outfit to swim resulted in a modest swimsuit. Due to religious and cultural restrictions she had an innovative idea of developing a Burkini, which is a cross between Burqa and Bikini, hence the name, however the label is called Ahiida.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term Burqa - it is a modest form of clothing which covers a woman’s entire body from head to toe. Bikini on the other hand covers minimal body parts. The two being quite opposite dress codes for women can be a challenge for the ones who want to dress in between.
The Burkini is made from high performance fabrication, which includes polyester, nylon and lycra to allow maximum and flexible movement in the water. The designer was cognoscente of the fact that the fabric should not stick to the body when a woman exits the pool, which would defeat the purpose and the notion of modest dress code required in Islam. All these important features were considered in designing a Burkini along with style and colors it offers.
Little did Mrs. Zanetti know that her innovation would create high demand from Muslim women around the globe. Unlike in the past Muslim women now can participate in various sports, swimming and go about day-to-day activities with confidence in a Burkini.
Majority of Muslim woman find Burkini practical and wearable; however, negative criticism has drawn attention to Burkini from all around the globe. Common rhetorical remarks are ‘it resembles a Teletubby’- a character from a children’s television show, an alien suit, or it’s way too ugly. It’s unfortunate that the swimsuit is being judged solely by its appearance and overlooked in its practicality and the purpose it serves for the people who embrace it wholeheartedly due to religious and cultural circumstances.
Let’s not forget that there’s a definite resemble between surfer’s wet suit and Burkini. Whether Mrs. Zanetti was influenced by the wet suit or developed Burkini solely from her imagination is unknown, but if the wet suit is accepted by everyone and it serves the purpose for a surfer then why is Burkini mocked and critized. The Burkini serves the purpose and functionality in a similar way as any other sports gear would. Stating that Burkini is simply ugly or resembles Teletubby doesn’t justify all the valid reasons it works for the consumer who appreciates it.
The Burkini is not limited to Muslim women only; it is accepted by women of light skin who do not want to damage her skin in the sun when hitting the beach or poolside. Burkini is a smart dress code for the beach side since it provides protection from the sun and all the UV rays which are harmful to our skin.
The Burkini made its debut in the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games when Ruqaya Al Ghasara stepped into the open fields wearing one. This was an especially designed athletic wear for the Bahrain’s Olympic short distance race candidate. Mrs. Al Ghasara is ranked number seven in the world and embraced the Burkini eagerly and said it improved her performance. She further said, “It’s great to finally have a high performance outfit that allows me to combine my need for modesty with a design made from breathable, moisture controlled fabric that allows freedom of movement and flexibility. It’s definitely helped me to improve my times being able to wear something so comfortable and I’m sure it will help me to give my best performance at Beijing. I hope that by wearing the Hijood Sports Top will inspire other women to see that modesty or religious beliefs don’t have to be a barrier to participating in competitive sport.”
`A Muslim women’s study conducted by Yuka Nakamura, who is a doctoral candidate in physical education and health at the University of Toronto in Canada stated that there’s a great need for a modest athletic wear beyond Muslim communities. She further said, an increasing number of non-Muslim women desire and embrace modest clothing when sporting. These non-Muslim women who are Christian and Jewish feel they too, don’t need to display body parts in participation of sports. These women are striving to be modest as well.
A greater number of Muslim women are participating in athletic activities and have concerns when it comes to attire. Burkini has definitely taken an immense challenge onto them by continuously providing better, more innovative, fresher, and latest styles for its consumer, which is growing by the numbers.
I am glad Mrs. Zanetti took the challenge and the first step by introducing a garment, which was missing from a Muslim women’s wardrobe. She filled a great void in a niche market allowing Muslim women to expand their goals, hobbies and activities with confidence. Below is an excerpt from Ahiida’s website – shedding light on Burkini:
All eyes are on the appearance of Muslim women in sports. Their appearance should be modest and at the same time it should reflect a professional sporty appearance with pride. By providing the appropriate clothing for the Muslim woman, who complies with religious, cultural and sports obligation, we are helping to bring out the best in Muslim woman, to prove that a Muslim woman is a role model to other women in the world, not an oppressed, no name, and no face being. With Ahiida® sportswear, we can now compete with confidence.
Author: Aysha Ibtasam