Heated debate in Austria over a clash of cultures in which a Muslim mum in a burkini allegedly took offence at another woman who stripped off naked in a changing room at a swimming pool.
The incident took place at the Simmeringer Bad swimming pool in the Austrian capital Vienna, where the Muslim woman who was there with a young son was reportedly bothered by the naked woman opposite her.
She is said to have asked the other woman, identified only as 57-year-old Susanne S., If she would cover herself and use the changing rooms instead. She said that the nudity made her uncomfortable and it was bad for her son.
However, instead of agreeing, the 57-year-old allegedly responded that she would like the Muslim woman to remove the burkini because displays of religious feelings offended her because she was an atheist.
Council spokesman for local baths Martin Kotinsky said there were no witnesses of the altercation, only a complaint by the 57-year-old.
He said that both women are in the right. He said that Susanna S. had the right to be naked when changing clothes, and the mother had the right to go swimming in the bikini.
In Austria, nudity is common in changing rooms and compulsory in saunas, most of which are mixed sex where it is considered unhygienic to wear any form of clothing.
The report about the row between the two women has caused heated discussion in Austria, with the vast majority expressing bemusement at any woman who would object to another woman undressing in the changing rooms.
And the far-right FPOe party has demanded a ban on all burkinis in public swimming baths in Austria which has been rejected by city swimming pool officials.
Kotinsky said: “We don’t want to ban people being naked in the showers or wearing burkinis”, appealing for “more tolerance on both sides.”
The city councillor for schools and integration, Jurgen Czernohorszky, said that as long as the proper standards of hygiene were met there are no bans on what people could wear at swimming pools.
But the debate has also increased discussions over the headscarf ban which the government plans to extend to apply to any girl up to the age of 14. At the moment, it only applies to children in primary school.
Czernohorszky said he believed that the debate was simply detracting from more important subjects such as the education budget. He said it would better to look at improving integration measures and doing everything to support the self-determination and development of girls in the best possible way, highlighting for example the city’s “respect – stronger together” programme.
However this was rejected by the Austrian Islamic Community (IGGO) and spokeswoman Carla Amina Baghajati who alleged that politics was being made at the expense of women and girls. She said that it was a breach of the rights to self-determination that would damage those affected.
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