Italy imam defends burqinis with beach-going nuns photo

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Italy imam defends burqinis with beach-going nuns photo
Photo: Jeremy Crantek/Flickr

The Imam of Florence, Izzedin Elzir, waded into the controversial burqini debate on Thursday by posting a photo on Facebook of habit-wearing nuns splashing around on the edge of the shore – only for the social network to block his account.


Wednesday's post - a response to some French beach resorts banning burqinis - garnered over 2,000 shares.

But when he tried to access his account the next morning, Elzir, who is also the president of the Union of Italian Islamic Communities, found it was blocked.

“It’s incomprehensible,” he was quoted by La Repubblica as saying.

“I have to send them an ID document to reactivate it. They wanted to make sure it’s my account – it’s a very strange procedure."

His account was back online by Friday evening, and the photo is still there.

“I hope it wasn’t suspended because of a photo like this, which was shared by more than 2,000 people within a few hours, and calls for dialogue - we live in a society of law and freedom,” he added.

Elzir said that the burqini was a swimming costume which had become fashionable among Muslim women in recent years.

“In the US, American women buy them, not just Muslims. But for us it’s new, it’s only really become fashionable over the last five years.

"I’m sorry that community leaders and some politicians in France, instead of responding to the political and economic needs of their citizens, are focussing on how Muslims dress.” 

Elzir could not be reached for further comment when contacted by The Local on Friday evening.

Needless to say, the picture rekindled a debate that has been raging for over a week across Europe because of France’s burqini ban.

Photo: AFP

“Does it escape you that the sisters belong to a religious order, and that is uniform? The clothing of laity is something else. The comparison with the nuns doesn’t make sense!!!!!” wrote one commenter.

Another joked: “Thank goodness we found something to talk about under our beach umbrellas this summer, otherwise we would have discussed potholes.”

On Thursday, an Austrian politician also provoked an angry reaction online after posting a photo of two nuns wearing habits and sarcastically joking they were ‘oppressed women’ wearing burqas.

Ahmet Demir, a politician in Tyrol with the Green party, took the post down and apologised if he offended anyone but defended his post.

In a second message posted on the social network he explained that he was trying to convey that “every woman should be able to wear what they want as long as they chose the clothes themselves”.

Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said on Tuesday that Italy would not follow France by allowing burqini bans on public beaches but is planning tighter regulation of imams and mosques.

Alfano told the Corriere della Sera daily that he regarded France's restrictions on Islamic clothing as counter-productive because of the potential backlash it could provoke.


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