This summer will be dominated by the war in Ukraine and related economic catastrophes.
Add the lingering coronavirus pandemic – one that refuses to go away – and burgeoning monkeypox, and it all amounts to a terrifying global picture.
Does this mean that France will be spared its annual ‘Muslim dress’ saga? Of course not.
Grenoble decided burkinis were not dirty
Like the first cuckoos of spring, reactionaries exploded with anger when Grenoble voted in May to allow burkinis in municipal swimming pools.
Councillors in the Alpine city decided there was nothing particularly unhygienic about the all-in-one swimsuit.
France is the land of tight-fitting Speedos, where even Bermuda shorts are considered too floppy and potentially dirty for pools, but burkinis passed all health tests.
This did not stop its opponents.
A burkini is swimwear, nothing more
Critics from both Right and Left see the burkini as a sign there are too many Muslims in France, and that they are imposing their identity too strongly.
Thus, they distort secularism – a cornerstone of the modern Republic – to argue the burkini is a symbol of Islam and should therefore be banned.
Such a warped argument falls apart when we examine the very word ‘burkini’, however.
It is an amalgamation of burka – a garment that covers every part of the body except the eyes – and bikini.
The truth is that the burkini is nothing like either.
It is instead high-quality swimwear, complete with protection against the sun’s rays (that is why children often wear something similar).
It is worn by a small minority of modest Muslim women who do not like to expose their flesh in public.
Pool rules taken to the top
Yet Gérald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, accused Grenoble of “unacceptable provocation”.
On his instruction, a local court was asked to intervene to suspend the new pool rules from coming into effect.
Grenoble has since appealed against the ruling, and the case will now go to France’s top administrative authority the Conseil d’Etat.
Cannot hide bigotry and racism
France considers itself the home of human rights – “liberty, equality and fraternity” are enshrined as its highest ideals – but clothing choice is somehow excluded by those in power.
Even certain feminists (by no means all of them) want a burkini ban, because they see any kind of garment that relates to Islam, however vaguely, as a symbol of oppression.
The truth is that those who rally against the behaviour of ethnic or religious minorities they dislike are seldom able to hide their bigotry, nor indeed their racist motivations.
It was only six years ago that Laurence Rossignol, France’s women’s rights minister at the time, compared Muslim women who dare to shop in the so-called “Islamic garment market” to “negroes who supported slavery”.
Sarkozy’s ‘burka ban’ weaponized French secularism
Absurdly (considering France is a centre of world fashion that makes billions out of the clothing industry), there were even accusations that burkini manufacturers were solely interested in another “lucrative” line of business.
The entire Paris establishment, Left and Right, has been vilifying Muslims for years, and this contrived fashion debate is yet another example of their insidious tactics.
They were successfully honed by Nicolas Sarkozy, the former conservative president who introduced the so-called “burka ban” to keep his xenophobic base happy.
A poisonous nationwide debate managed to demonise Islam per se, as secularism laws were yet again weaponised against a religious and cultural minority made up of some five million people.
The vast majority would never think of wearing a burka or a burkini, yet all are castigated.
Feeding far right hate
The Far Right has just had another very successful presidential election, and with a parliamentary one coming up, President Emmanuel Macron and his ministers see no reason to end the divisive and hateful debate that demeans France, and diverts attention from the issues that should really matter.