Source: The Christian Science Monitor
CRONULLA, AUSTRALIA – It's a sweltering day, and the beach is packed with suntanned bodies. Girls in swimsuits lounge on the sand while their boyfriends cradle surfboards.
Mecca Laalaa is the lone exception. Instead of a barely there bikini, she's in a burqini - a top-to-toe two-piece lycra suit complete with hijab, or Islamic head covering.
Loose enough to preserve Muslim modesty, but light enough to enable swimming, the burqini, taking its name from the burqa, is at the forefront of a dramatic shift within Australia's iconic surf lifesaving clubs.
No longer wanting to be associated only with bronzed, blue-eyed action men, Surf Life Saving Australia is attempting to better reflect the country's multicultural mix.
Ms. Laalaa is one of 24 young people of Arab descent who signed up for a 10-week surf lifesaving-training course.
"Normally, I'd wear cotton trousers and a top but they get very heavy in the water. This meets our cultural requirements," she says, preparing to go out on a beach patrol. The burqini that she wears was specially designed to allow Muslim women like her to join one of the surf lifesavers clubs.