The woman behind the burkini says 40% of sales are to non-Muslims

Making a splash
Making a splash
Image: Associated Press
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Towns all over France are banning the burkini—a swimming garment that covers the whole body—with the latest being Nice, which was subject to a horrific terrorist attack when a man plowed through a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day, killing more than 80 people.

Photos showing French police making a woman take off her blouse on a Nice beach went viral this week.

While more places are banning the burkini in a bid to defend secularism, the woman who designed the swimwear insists it has little to do with Islam and was intended to give women more freedom, not take any away. Aheda Zanetti, a Lebanese woman living in Australia, claims that over 40%of burkini sales are from non-Muslim women.

“The Jewish community embraces it,” she told Politico. “I’ve seen Mormons wearing it. A Buddhist nun purchased it for all of her friends. I’ve seen women who have issues with skin cancer or body image, moms, women who are not comfortable exposing their skin—they’re all wearing it.”

In fact, when she first designed it for the Muslim community in Sydney’s suburbs, she worried it was too racy. “I looked at the veil and took away a lot of the excess fabric, which made me nervous—would my Islamic community accept this?” she wrote in The Guardian. “The veil is supposed to cover your hair and your shape, you just don’t shape anything around your body. But this was shaped around the neck. I thought, it’s only the shape of a neck, it doesn’t really matter.”

Zanetti says business has boomed since the French burkini ban—sales were up by 200%. She added in her Guardian article:

I remember when I first tested the burkini… I went to Roselands Pool, and I remember that everyone was staring at me – what was I wearing? I went right to the end of the pool and got on the diving board and dived in… It was my first time swimming in public and it was absolutely beautiful.

I remember the feeling so clearly. I felt freedom, I felt empowerment, I felt like I owned the pool. I walked to the end of that pool with my shoulders back. Diving into water is one of the best feelings in the world.

And you know what? I wear a bikini under my burkini. I’ve got the best of both worlds.