What Are Burkinis? Why Are They Banned?


French mayors have banned full-body swimsuits known as “burkinis” from beaches, citing public order concerns. (Washington Post)

Read through our study guide on hijab to better understand this misunderstood concept, and ideas about how to discuss it in class.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

Women who wear hijab coverings often keep them on whenever they are in public—even swimming, as this woman is doing off Saudi Arabia's coast. Like many Saudi women, she is wearing a head scarf called a niqab and an abaya. An abaya covers the entire body except the head, feet, and hands. Photograph by Sebastian Farmborough, My Shot
Women who wear hijab coverings often keep them on whenever they are in public—even swimming, as this woman is doing off Saudi Arabia’s coast. Like many Saudi women, she is wearing a head scarf called a niqab and an abaya. An abaya covers the entire body except the head, feet, and hands. Burkinis, full-body swimsuits that resemble wetsuits, are more manageable than an abaya in the water.
Photograph by Sebastian Farmborough, My Shot

Discussion Ideas


  • Why do some people support the burkini ban? Read through our study guide, and take a look at the Fast Facts for some help.
    • According to government officials, “The garment goes against the country’s secular beliefs … and only furthers tension between French citizens who practice Islam and those who do not in a country that has suffered a series of targeted attacks by Islamist extremists in recent years.”
      • According to our study guide, burkinis and other hijab clothing have become potent indicators of identity, with many non-Muslims viewing it as a political statement. Some communities interpret hijab as a sign of Islamic fundamentalism, the refusal of immigrants to integrate into mainstream society, or the oppression of women.
    • Officials also cite safety concerns after a very violent brawl broke out when tourists photographed women in burkinis.
    • France has fairly strict laws discouraging wearing religious-affiliated clothing in public. According to our study guide, students, teachers, and government workers are banned from wearing “overt religious displays,” including hijab, Jewish kippah (skullcaps), and large Christian crosses. Small charms are allowed.


  • Why do some people object to the burkini ban?
    • Opponents say the bans are bigoted, in that they specifically target Muslim women, and will only further divide a nation reeling from violent incidents.
      • One opponent says a mayor who bans burkinis “talks about protecting public order, which means he thinks the presence of a Muslim woman on a beach will cause trouble. He also invokes the fight against terrorism, so he is basically saying a Muslim woman who wears a burkini is a terrorist.”
      • Another opponent says “Yet again it’s ordinary Muslims who pay for the actions of terrorists even though they had nothing to do with it. This is exactly what Daesh [the Islamic State] wants.”


  • Many people who object to the burkini ban cite the example of some Muslim athletes at the Olympics, who participate while wearing hijab: American fencers, Saudi sprinters, Egyptian weightlifters. What is hijab? Take a look at our study guide on this concept for some help.
    • Hijab is an Islamic concept of modesty and privacy. Hijab garments range from simple head scarves (called khimaar or simply hijab) to head-to-toe cloaks such as abayas and burqas.
    • Public expression of hijab is a very personal issue. It is, first and foremost, an act of worship among Muslim women. In the United States, wearing hijab clothing is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment—as freedom of speech and freedom of religion.



Washington Post: Burkini beach brawl leads third French city in a week to ban the swimsuit for Muslim women

Nat Geo: Hijab: Veiled in Controversy study guide

7 thoughts on “What Are Burkinis? Why Are They Banned?

  1. Seeing a Muslim woman in burqa doesn’t mean that she is a terrorist or belongs to terrorism.. Our dressing can’t express ourselves.. And first of all terror has no religion.. They are people who don’t care for anyone..
    Maybe government has their own reasons to bann all these things.. But it’s our personal choice what to wear or not!! We should respect all the religions..

  2. If I may say so, and this is my opinion, there is nothing wrong with wearing a burkini as long as the face is uncovered. The burkini really looks very much like a wetsuit which people wear for diving, its fine.
    Covering a face is unnatural and scary, while wearing the hijab can be really attractive. Its should be left up to everyone, but like I say the covering of the face is really scary, not from a terrorist point of view, but just that it looks so unnatural and one cannot see the mouth, barely the eyes so you cannot really size up a person properly.

  3. If some Muslim is fine with Hijab, that means Burqa is not a necessary requirement for Muslim woman to wear. If the government bans the Jewish kippah, and large Christian crosses. It is just fair not to show favouritism to another religion.

    Besides, when someone is completely covered. How would people know who is under that clothing? Would that be a male or a female? Would that be a criminal trying to hide himself and move around the area? It is definitely a concern for the safety of the others.

    1. What an argument ” if some Muslims are fine with Hijab, that means Burqa is not necessary” if some people are fine with nudity then wearing cloths is not necessary.

      Full face covering helmet, for motorcyclist, should also be banned. They may be terrorist, can attack, and runaway?

      Actually every one should be free to do what he want unless it restrict others to be free.

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