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France's Burkini Ban a Symptom of Deep Discontent

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The rest of the world should be paying close attention to France's burkini controversy, because this is the kind of fiasco that ensues when you blast past every exit ramp en route to total social disintegration.

Over the summer, some French communes banned the burkini -- a recently invented full-body covering worn by women as a sort of aquatic burqa -- from public beaches and pools. The French Council of State, the country's highest administrative court, overturned the bans last month, ruling that such decrees should not be driven by emotions, which have been running high ever since a Tunisian-born terrorist used a truck to mow down a crowd of revelers on Bastille Day (which marks the onset of the French summer season), killing 86 people and injuring hundreds more. Still, some towns in the regions of France most heavily populated by immigrants -- such as Nice, where the truck attack took place -- announced their intent to ignore the decision and maintain the burkini ban.

How culturally insecure do you have to be to get so riled up about clothing? It's not even a real burqa. This is what it has come to, folks: photos blasted around the world of French police officers hovering over a burkini-clad woman lying on a French beach -- all because authorities were too cowardly to enact policies that would serve as a foundation for cultural and societal cohesion.

While spending time in Vancouver, Canada, over the summer, I noticed some young girls in burkinis at the local swimming pool. My first thought was that these girls are excluded a priori from participating in the local swim club (an experience that taught me values such as self-motivation, goal-setting, teamwork and leadership). In this sense, yes, a burkini is inherently an affront to freedom. These girls couldn't train or race in a burkini even if they wanted to.

Still, the burkini is not an issue of debate in Canada. At least not yet. That's because, with the exception of a few enclaves, Canada still feels like the same country in which I grew up. Paris, where I live now, sometimes feels as if it's not even in Europe, demographically speaking. Canada still has palpable European roots. So far, the countless immigrants who have settled there have mostly adapted to Canadian values and the Canadian way of life. But the moment this changes, insecurities will emerge, and matters such as women's bathing attire will become the focus of debate. And perhaps that moment isn't far off.

The French don't have the luxury of fretting about a girl's freedom to join a swim team. They're too busy worrying about the disintegration of the French Republic.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will run for another presidential term in the May 2017 election, told the French newspaper Le Figaro, "Wearing a burkini is a political, militant act, a provocation." He added that "doing nothing is to suggest that France appears weak, and it would enact a further decline of the Republic."

No, what's weak are the policies that have led the country to this point, starting with collusion between the right and the left in France -- virtually all parties except for Marine Le Pen's "far-right" National Front party -- to radically orient immigration policies in favor of the culturally and socially incompatible. What's weak is French Prime Minister Manuel Valls proclaiming in the wake of the Nice attack that "terrorism will be a part of everyday life for a long time," as if French citizens should resign themselves to it as a side effect of globalism.

French society is being torn apart by failed policies. French agricultural workers and truck drivers blockaded the main route into Calais this week to protest the French government's failure to clear out a huge migrant area known as the "Jungle," despite repeatedly promising to do so. Wealthy residents in Paris' 16th arrondissement are complaining about migrant housing facilities being erected across the street from them.

Western societies are expected to have flexible societal values and cultural identities, to their own detriment. Why doesn't anyone lobby in favor of "diversifying" Japan or China in the same way?

The burkini debate is a warning to other Western democracies so focused on fostering diversity that it could end up creating division and chaos. I'm thinking specifically of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who remains intent on resettling 30,000 Syrian refugees, even though many of these refugees are struggling to integrate and are overtaxing the country's related services. I'm also thinking of U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who has called for America to take in up to 65,000 Syrian refugees (in addition to the 10,000 who have already arrived).

It may be only a matter of time before Canada and America have their own versions of the burkini debate.

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