For some Muslim women, going to the pool or beach used to be difficult because of Islam’s traditional emphasis on modest dress — but no longer. Thanks to new full-body swimsuits developed specifically with these women in mind, Muslim girls and women may be poolside more often.
These are an updated version of full-body swim wear which has been around for decades but complies with Islam’s traditional emphasis on modest dress. They also increasingly stylish, intricate sequin designs with miniskirts that go over long pants.
In many Muslim countries, the sexes are commonly separated in pools and on beaches. In America, however, these places are predominantly co-ed, which means some Muslim women have to abide by their personal beliefs about modesty. There are no explicit rules that would cover all Muslim cultures at all times . It’s not as if a woman who wears a regular bathing suit is not a traditional Muslim. It’s individual taste. You’ll find a wide variety of swimwear on Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The polyester, nylon and Lycra material allows for flexible movement in the water and does not stick to the woman’s body when she exits the ocean or pool.
Most Muslim women purchase three-piece suits, according to Indonesia’s major player in Muslim apparel industry, ZEHBA. The suits now being made are increasingly fashionable in moderate muslim countries like Indonesia and Malaysia were they are marketed using professional models. Rimma Bawazier, Indonesia’s favourite television host is the brand ambassador for ZEHBA. The great thing is that they don’t absorb water and they are very light and they’re thin, so they’re safe and very comfortable. For many Muslim women, these suits offer the only alternative to wearing regular clothes when swimming.
Aheda Zanetti, a lebanese australian sells her burqinis (Burkha + Bikini = Burkini) for up to A$200 ($160), hopes to widen the garment’s appeal beyond Muslim women at the beach.
Shereen Sabet, who founded Splashgear, an online swimwear store for Muslim women, based in Huntington Beach, Calif says “Nothing in the Quran says women and men can’t swim or scuba dive together. It’s just a question of finding a solution”. Today, about a dozen stores, based in the United States and abroad, sell swimwear to Muslim-American women, mostly through online catalogs. A full suit can cost more than $100, with pants around $60, shirts at $25 and water scarves and hoods about $15.
In the past, religious women in Turkey either didn’t go to the beach or wore regular street clothing into the water. Most women at beaches in secular Turkey wear Western-style bathing suits. One of the top company producing Islamic bathing suits, Hasema, he can’t produce them quick enough to keep pace with demand. The company exports to Egypt, North America, England and Australia. Mehmet Sahin said he founded the company, because of his own problems on the beach as a university student.
In Egypt swim suites for muslim women is better known as “Sharia swimsuit”. It is part of a growing industry catering for religiously-observant women. It is no longer mainly the westernised elite that can afford such leisure activities as swimming. In such a conservative society, many women have until now either had to sit on one side or go into the water in their clothes. To them, the “Sharia swimsuit” offers one solution. It is a high-necked, swimming costume with sleeves and a small skirt, to be worn over long trousers.
However, the highest religious authority for Sunni Muslims, Al-Azhar, does not recognise the new swimming costume.
One of its clerics, Sheikh Mahmoud al-Hanafi, says there is no such thing as an Islamically-acceptable swimsuit – the only thing Sharia law recognises is Islamic dress that is meant to protect women from what he calls “gossiping eyes.”