The community pool is a part of many fun summers. It is a place where everyone is welcome, and people from every class come together to share a little warm weather entertainment. This seems to be changing at some community funded pools as groups move in to push out the very community members that paid for the pool. Segregation based on religion and gender is being forced on some community pool users in Australia in the name of “respect” and religious freedoms.
Instead of focusing on uniting the community, members of the Muslim community in Sydney have demanded special treatment to protect them from those who are not like them. Not only have members of the community pushed to be able to wear burkinis in the pool, now they are stepping up to say who can be in the pool with them and even who can see them in the pool.
According to a community newsletter:
“The council-run Auburn Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre in the city’s west has installed a retractable curtain around one of its three pools so women can swim privately during two set time slots on Wednesdays, infuriating many residents who said it was like‘segregation’.
The organiser [sic] of the swim group, Yusra Metwally, said the idea behind the sessions was to ‘accommodate people who wouldn’t otherwise swim at a beach, or swim in a swimming pool because they don’t feel comfortable’.”
Mostly this takes the idea that this group of women has the right to be covered in the pool one step further as they now have exclusive rights to use the pool and also control who can be in the area while they swim. In previous summers these same groups have made demands to control what other swimmers in the pool wear as the exposure of thighs and shoulders was offensive to them. They have advocated being able to swim covered but do not advocate for others to also be able to swim as they wish.
Community members are outraged by this recent move to yet again control the overall community to provide an extra level of security or modesty for a select few. According to a local radio station:
“Ruth Everuss Aquatic Centre is not an Islamic swimming pool, therefore they should not be accepting of such an idea in the first place.”
There are also non-supporters of the segregation within the Muslim community. They see this as a dangerous precedent to not only demand the right to wear what they wish when swimming but to also control what others are allowed to wear and even how other community members access this public pool. According to a local report from within the local Muslim community:
“Adelaide Shia imam Sheikh Mohammad Tawhidi is likening the swimming pool policy to sharia law.
‘It is part of sharia law that a strange man must not see the body of another woman, therefore they are installing the curtains,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
Sheikh Tawhidi said religious Muslims should build ‘Muslim-only swimming pools for themselves’ rather than have their laws imposed on non-Muslims.”
Members of the Muslim community are also pushing to have pools built within their communities to better serve the need of the local women. Taking the time to design and build a center that can better accommodate the privacy needs of Muslim women would mean they would not be forcing the larger community to fund this type of segregation. It would be private property and not tax-payer funded.
While is may seem like a pretty simple thing, to install curtains around the pool area to shield these classes from the view of the public, it comes with a hefty price to the community. They cost $45,000 to install and now make it possible for these small Muslim groups to shut out those they see as being less desirable from their classes. This means boys, men, and anyone that is not Muslim.
Essentially the taxpayers are paying to be shut out of their pool. While many times a community pool may be rented for private events, this is not the case here. The pool is being controlled by a small part of the community for their benefit.
This type of control is not new in this community. Over the last few years, the local Muslim women have not only fought to wear burkinis in the pool but also demanded to have a say in what others wore in their presence. It was not enough to cover themselves from head to toe; they also demanded that locals no longer wear even modest traditional swimwear as they now are forced to cover their shoulders and legs. One has to wonder when the burkini will be the only option for everyone.
As the curtains went up and ladies in burkinis arrived, many in the local area were confused by the need for the curtains. The burkini substantially covers a woman from head to toe in a type of burka that is fit for swimming. The burkini can be either a one piece suit or two and is just a bit less restricting than an actual burka. The original burkini was made in Australia.