Muslim Woman + Public Pool = ?


My alarm to wake up in the morning is a local radio station. Two days ago, I woke up to the sound of a heated discussion that was happening between the radio host and a few callers.


A Muslim woman had called in to talk about her experience at her condominium’s swimming pool. She had gone swimming wearing leggings and a loose shirt, however she was told to leave the pool by the life guard because apparently, swimming in this apparel would cause a “chemical reaction” with the chlorine. She was told she would only be able to swim if she wore the standard bikini.

The Muslim woman told the radio host that she felt she was discriminated against on the premise of being a Muslim, and planned to take this issue to the Canadian Human Rights Committee.

The radio host then opened the floor to debate on whether this would be considered a case of discrimination against modest Muslim women, and asked listeners to call in with their opinions.

Some listeners called in and said that they did not believe it to be discrimination, but simply a safety procedure. Some called in and said that if you live in a Western country, you must adapt Western rules and regulations and therefore, dress “normally”. Some called in and questioned what a “modest Muslim woman was doing swimming in a public pool with half naked men.” Yet most called in and said that this was discrimination in its simplest form because a free country like Canada should give opportunities to people from all races and religions – even if it is a simple matter of swimming in a public pool.

I was surprised to hear that the majority did believe that this was discrimination, and that the explanation of her apparel causing a “chemical reaction” had been a blatant excuse. I was also surprised to hear the radio host siding with this belief as well.

The debate got more interesting when an actual worker in a condominium in the same area called in. He said that although security has made a rule that no street wear (including shirts and leggings) are to be allowed in the pool, people of the Islamic religion are to be exempted if they practice modest dressing!

So, what about me? What would I have said if I had called in?

First of all – whether she was discriminated against or not – I do not believe that swimming in a public pool is appropriate for Muslim women, because no matter how loose your outfit is, your clothes will still end up clinging to you as soon as you get out of the water!

Second of all, I do not think that whether this was a case of discrimination against Muslim women or not should even have been important. The main problem was why pool hours were not offered for females only! I go to university, and yes, I do go swimming sometimes in the university’s recreation pool with friends. I have never had a problem because we only go when the pool is closed off to males.

I admire the woman’s determination to take this to the Canadian Human Rights Committee, but I feel her case is displaced. It would be more fitting to go to the condominium office and demand some pool hours to be for females only. Perhaps then there would be no discrimination issue after all!

What do you say?