Although Muslims make up 8 percent of the population, in France and roughly half that in Britain, the two countries continue to grapple with multiculturalism, the reality of the differences between the cultures of Muslims and non-Muslims is evident in all quarters of life.

Because Muslims have resisted assimilating into Western life, the French and English have found themselves adapting to Muslim customs and practices, and now even the world of fashion is adapting.

The Islamic faith sets forth strict standards of proper modesty for women, including the covering of hair and most skin to varying degrees according to the sect, but none accept the West’s concept of what is not only attractive, but acceptable beachwear, so fashion designers are responding with swimsuits for Muslim women.

The British tabloid, The Daily Mail, called it “the ultimate proof Britain is truly multicultural.”

The design, called the “burkini” in a combination of “burqa” and “bikini”, provides full head-to-ankle coverage for Muslim women resembles a loose wetsuit with a hoodie is now being sold at Marks & Spencer, but not without controversy.

Defender’s of the burkini say it meets consumer demand, adding, “We have sold this item for a number of years and it is popular with our customers internationally,” according to a Marks & Spencer spokeswoman, but it is also being called “sexist” and has been banned at Moroccan beaches.

Muslim journalist Remona Aly penned an op-ed in the Guardian stating it was a matter of choice for Muslim women, “ If I want to buy a burkini from M&S, I bloody well will,” but Laurence Rossignol, the Women’s Rights Minister of France, released a statement denouncing it: “Sure, there are women who choose it, and there were American negroes who were for slavery.”

The debate is heating up as summer approaches and in the midst of a recent uproar when Air France issued a requirement that female flight attendants wear headscarves on flights bound for Iran.

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