Sports Illustrated Faces Backlash for Featuring Burkini-Wearing Model


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written by

Will Maule

Sports Illustrated just announced the latest issue of its flagship swimsuit edition will feature a model wearing traditional Islamic garb. The publication said that Somali-American model Halima Aden would be “making history as the first Muslim model to wear a hijab and burkini in the magazine.”

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Interestingly, however, the “burkini” is not a common piece of clothing worn by Muslim women in the context of going to the beach or swimming. It is, however, used by women from more fundamental quarters of Islamic society, in order to achieve full-body covering and maintain modesty.

The four schools of thought in Sunni Islam — Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanbali — insist that every single part of a woman’s body, except the hands and face, must be covered when in prayer or in the presence of men. As such, full-body covering is widely viewed as a very oppressive practice.

Why, then, is a magazine that both objectifies women for their bodies and champions flaunting the female body so proud of featuring a burkini-wearing woman on the front of its magazine?

That is a question that is being feverishly bounced around Twitter since SI’s announcement.

“The irony @SI_Swimsuit is there are Muslim women who don’t wear hijab and who do wear normal bathing-suits,” tweeted radio host Lalo Dagach. “Literally millions of Muslim women, all over the world. But u went out of ur way to glamorize fundamentalist religious dress-codes unnecessarily.”

Another Twitter user claiming to come from a Muslim background commented, “If you’re going to wear the hijab and cover your skin – whether you think our religion calls for it or you want modesty – it is completely counterintuitive to strike a sexy pose in a magazine known for objectifying women.”

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Conservative firebrand Matt Walsh also weighed in, noting the irony of the magazine heralding the burkini cover as some sort of feminist victory.

“I would get it if it were for a swimsuit catalog for women to buy,” another Twitter user wrote. “But for a magazine specially made for men. It beats the whole purpose of the hijab.”