Burqa Approved for Swimming in Western Australia

Cultural Enrichment News

The Western Australian health authorities have decided to make an exception for burqa-like swimwear in public swimming pools, on the basis of religious beliefs. Past complaints have cost them dearly in civil lawsuit payouts, so an adjustment to the official policy became necessary.

If non-Muslims were to wear similar clothing, it would be considered unhygienic, and they would not be allowed in the pool. But the magic of Islam can perform many wonders, and one of them seems to be to reverse bad hygiene. Say the shahada, and presto! The bacteria flee from the scene.

According to the local news in WA:

Health Policy Overhaul on Back of Burqa

CONTROVERSY surrounding the swim attire worn by some Islamic women has prompted the development of a new policy on dress standards for the WA aquatic industry.

The WA Health Department and Office of Multicultural Affairs have approved the Leisure Institute of WA’s new policy for public swimming pools and its rollout is imminent.

Work began on the policy after a Muslim woman and her friends were stopped from using the pool and water slides at Adventure World in February 2009 because of their religious dress.

The Equal Opportunities Commission took up the case and the woman was awarded $16,000 compensation and an apology in May this year.

The EOC confirmed it has dealt with several similar cases since.

The need for a universal policy on the issue was further highlighted recently when swimmers at a City of Swan aquatic facility complained because a woman was allowed to swim in her religious clothes.

LIWA vice-president Chris Blankley said the new policy encompassed all dress standards, including religious clothing.

“Our position is safety first and to make sure we are setting across-the-board standards for all our (aquatic) centres, but also taking into account religious and cultural differences,” he said.

Mr Blankley said the policy would allow managers to make decisions based on safety.

“If someone has full Muslim wear on we would prefer to see them in a shallow pool; we don’t want to see them doing full laps, it’s not safe or appropriate,” he said.

Islamic Council of WA president Sajit Smajic said he was not aware of the City of Swan incident.

However, he believed more public tolerance was needed.

“I don’t know more than 10 women in Perth wearing the burqa. Wearing the burqa (or a burkini) is an individual choice,” he said.

EOC Commissioner Yvonne Henderson said it was unlawful to stop a Muslim woman from swimming in a public pool in religious dress.

For a complete listing of previous enrichment news, see The Cultural Enrichment Archives.

Hat tip: Anne-Kit.
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