It's not itsy-bitsy, it's the burkini

Say hello to the burkini—a swimming costume designed for Muslim women. It is a semi-fitting two-piece swimsuit that connects to an “ahiida hijood” and it will be worn by Australian Muslim lifesavers from January.

Sydney designer Aheda Zanetti came up with the design after Surf Life Saving Australia began a drive to recruit more Islamic lifeguards, particularly women, following riots last year between Lebanese Muslim teenagers and white Australians on Sydney’s Cronulla beach. The style is not exactly Baywatch—that’s the whole point of it—but no one will be able to miss the women running up and down Bondi Beach in these outfits.

But the burkini is by no means the first Muslim swimming cossie.
In 2000 the “sharia swimsuit” was all the rage in Cairo, with Egyptian women flocking to buy the high-necked costume with sleeves and a small skirt, which was worn over long trousers. Then came the “swimming hijab”, again championed in Egypt, which was “manufactured from industrial fibres which prevent it from sticking to the skin when wet”. Last year saw the launch of a Turkish swimwear collection called Hasema, consisting of a neck-to-ankle body-suit with hood. More than 40 000 units were sold.

So will the burkini take Australia by storm? Zanetti (38) said it had taken her a year to persuade Muslim women in Sydney that swimming “is not a sin” and sales had soared. Her company, Ahiida sportswear, has had great feedback, which she has posted on her website: “I was finally able to go to my aquarobics class, and I love the swimsuit! It’s so lightweight, dries so quickly and it looks great,” said Heba. “I received compliments from non-Muslims. I don’t look like a fool in the water any more.”

“In the water, I look like a real swimmer wearing a full body suit or scuba suit—but modest,” added Diana.

These ladies have a point: wearing a burkini means saying goodbye to silly swimming caps and cellulite problems. Who knows, Islamic swimwear could catch on among non-Muslims everywhere.—Â

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