LETTER TO THE EDITOR, 28 September 2016

In his letter (“Why French take hard line over burqinis”, ­September 25), Francois Moirez attributes wearing a burqini as an obvious sign a person does not wish to accept the customs and habits of the country where they “have decided to live”.

Politicians too, talk ­constantly about integration, and then proceed to push to the fringes the very women they claim are oppressed and ­excluded from society.

Telling Muslim women they have to be at least semi-naked in order to prove their inclusiveness is ­astonishingly hypocritical.

In France, a nun in traditional dress is seen as going about her day, whereas a woman in a headscarf is taking over public space in the name of Islam. If there was any doubt that the French belief in freedom of ­expression is wholly one-sided, it has surely vanished now.

France cannot be in favour of free expression when it offends Muslims, but whines about provocation when Muslims and others choose to be different.

It seems that when the ­Saudis tell you how to dress it is oppression, but when France does it, it’s called liberation. If women in thongs and string ­bikinis can express themselves, who is being harmed if a women chooses to cover up on a beach?

A burqini is simply a ­garment, for example, for a modest person, someone with skin cancer, or a new mother who doesn’t want to wear a ­bikini. It is not symbolic of Islam.

As sociologist Agnès De Féo said during an interview with CBS News, it is easier to ­accuse French Muslims “than to solve real social problems: unemployment, poverty, and social ­inequality”.

The French establishment talks about “liberty, equality, ­fraternity”. It claims to want Muslim women to achieve independence from their men, but deprives them of the means to acquire it, by keeping them ­indoors.

This is a betrayal of its own core values.