This fall, I spent 6 weeks in Morocco in my family’s beach home in Mehdia Plage, where I got to surf, swim and catch up on my reading. Every day that I sat on the beach in my burkini, I couldn’t help but think about how this simple act is currently considered a major political statement in some places. In fact, in some countries, it’s actually a violation of the law. Sometimes, I struggle to understand how wearing a lot of nylon could be offensive or even illegal. But then I remember that it’s not about the glorious amount of nylon that I wear when I swim or the fact that I cover my head. It’s about the lack of constructive dialog about these topics in our global communities. It’s about people’s insatiable desire to take offense to everything and shut down or to make hasty judgements with incomplete or inaccurate information. Neither side is doing justice to themselves, or others, and yet both sides feel justified in their incorrect behavior.
That being said, this post isn’t an analysis of why global Muslim populations are facing challenging situations with the rise of xenophobia or extremism. It’s about a 5-day photo campaign that I’m hosting on my blog called the #InMyBurkini Photo Series. This series will depict me doing mundane things, dare I say funny, in a burkini to remind people that nothing we wear, or don’t wear, should deprive us of our humanity or humor. Why am I doing this? I’m doing this because I believe that the first step to creating meaningful dialog between people is to make sure that they can connect with each other and that can never happen if we’re not willing to let our guard down. Unfortunately, many of us are raised with the “us versus them” mentality, especially in minority communities. However, we live in a global village, which is made even smaller by technology and social networks, and we simply don’t have the luxury to shut down anymore when we hear critical comments about who we are and what we believe.
No one said that creating dialog was easy. It is the ultimate act of vulnerability, because there is no guarantee that the wrong that was committed will be made right by the conversation. Having said that, it is the only way to move forward. More often than I would like to admit, I meet people who are conditioned to believe that “things never change,” but in my experience this is not the case. It is a convenient lie propagated by a few who benefit from the discord that comes as a result of this “social insolation” of our world’s diverse communities. I don’t know if this photo series will change anybody’s opinions of Muslims or Muslim women, or any minority for that matter. However, I am determined to step out of the stereotype that is attached to my identity and be exactly who I am, for myself and others, in the very thing that people seem to misunderstand and fear: my burkini. If we want change, we must have the courage to be vulnerable, the patience to listen and the wisdom to speak with compassion.
Starting tomorrow, make sure to comment, like and share the #InMyBurkini Photo Series on Soukie Speaks’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, so we can start more meaningful conversations, connect with people and be the change we want to see.
Special thanks to my very talented cousin for the pictures that she took for the #InMyBurkini Photo Series! To see more of her phenomenal photography check out her Instagram account: The Relaxed Photographer and DM her for inquiries!