This year, Ramadan falls in the hottest season in the D.C. area, spanning August. Many Muslims won’t be swimming, because they would risk breaking the dawn-to-dusk fast if water accidentally enters the mouth. Before Aug. 1, area pools seemed to be as popular with Muslim families as everyone else.
Recently at a Reston apartment complex, an Iraqi family frolicked in the pool, the mother wearing a full-body swimsuit and attached headscarf. Amana Rashid, another Reston mother, wore a burqini, a full-coverage swimsuit designed by Aheda Zanetti of Sydney. “I love it,” Rashid said. “I can help my daughter learn how to swim. And no one has ever said anything negative about me wearing one. In fact, one person told me it was a good idea.”
Zanetti, 38, created the burqini in 2003. Born in Lebanon and raised in Australia, she was inspired to search for sporting garments suitable for Muslim women when she watched her niece playing netball in a traditional hijab. Zanetti said the burqini is “two-piece like a bikini and smaller than a burqa” (a traditional full-body cloak, sometimes including a face covering). The burqini and other “Islamic” swimsuits resemble wetsuits used for surfing or scuba diving, except they are available in various colors and styles.
Zanetti’s company, Ahiida, sells a variety of modest swimwear pieces, included fitted and loose styles. Demand has been overwhelming, Zanetti said. “At first there were not enough burqini swimsuits to go around!”
For American Muslim women and others, “the challenge lies in our ability as women to break away from being defined and dressed by those who are pushing women to show more by wearing less,” Altalib said. “Women of all ages should be liberated by choosing clothing that makes them feel secure, respected, comfortable and modest, not constantly on display for others to judge.
“As a Muslim woman, I wear clothes that are flattering, yet don’t show the details of my figure,” Alsharif said. “I do this because I believe that God has called upon Muslim women to conserve their beauty to those closest to her. So, one does not have to wear a miniskirt to look beautiful.”