The southern Swedish municipality of Hässleholm has bought burkinis to enable muslim school girls to participate in swimming lessons, local newspaper Norra Skåne revealed on Friday.
Until recently, muslim girls had been wearing headscarves and regular clothes for swimming lessons. The facilities manager of the Qpoolen leisure centre pointed out to Norra Skåne how grossly unhygienic this is, inasmuch as millions of bacteria from sweat, make up and excrement enter the water. After discovering that there were indeed issues with the quality of water in the swimming pool, he demanded that the school children wear bathing suits, swim shorts or burkinis for the swimming lessons.
Rolf Bengtsson, deputy administrative director at Hässleholm municipality, when confronted by the Norra Skåne journalist implied that the municipality are able to make this investment because not all students need to have swimwear provided for them – if they did, that would be impossible, he said. The journalist then challenged Bengtsson when the latter drew a parallel to schools providing ice skates for students, with the journalist pointing out that burkinis are obviously more controversial than ice skates.
Bengtsson defended himself, saying that Swedish law does not restrict the wearing of islamic clothing in any way, and that it’s not up to the school to decide whether or not the burkini is a symbol of oppression of women. He admitted that, to his awareness, students cannot borrow normal bathing suits or swim shorts, but are expected to bring these to the swimming lessons themselves.
The municipality has been providing burkinis “at least” since the spring of 2017.