A Lebanese-Australian designer, who claims to have created six years ago what is now known as the controversial "burkini," says that despite the controversy she is designing a similar one for men.
Ahiida Massoud Zanetti, 41, who owns a company that specializes in Islamic swimwear and sportswear, says she first designed the Islamic swim suit while she was working as a hairdresser and added it was only meant to be for personal use.
"I wanted to swim, but since I am Muslim I can't be half naked on the beach," Zanetti told Al Arabiya. "So, I decided to design a bathing suit that preserves Muslim modesty."
Zanetti said it all started with friends and relatives asking her to make them what would later become nicknamed burkini, a mix between the word burka, a loose outer garment worn my Muslim women, and bikini.
The burkini covers the entire body except the face and it looks more or less like a full-length wetsuit except it is manufactured of lighter material that makes swimming easier.
I wanted to swim, but since I am Muslim I can't be half naked on the beach
From Australia to Germany
Zanetti explained how the new swim suit gradually started spreading amongst members of the Muslim community in Sydney, where she lives, and then to other parts of Australia.
"Australian press started writing about the burkini as a strange phenomenon while many saw it as just another type of bathing suit," she said.
The burkini quickly reached Europe and the Middle East and Zanetti found her small business that sells by piece producing more than 4,000 swim suits a year for a minimum of $ 130.
Zanetti, who is married to a Greek businessman who converted to Islam, said company profits now hit $5 million annually.
"The company now has 21 employees from Australia, Lebanon, Germany, Vietnam, and Pakistan," she said.
Australian press started writing about the burkini as a strange phenomenon while many saw it as just another type of bathing suit
No to Israel
Since she started exporting burkinis two years ago, Zanetti said she has been getting ordered from countries across Europe and the Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Morocco.
The only country Zanetti has refused to sell her burkinis to is Israel.
"I do not want to deal with anyone in Israel even though I know that Muslim women there will be using the burkinis," she said with no further explanation.
I do not want to deal with anyone in Israel even though I know that Muslim women there will be using the burkinis
Zanetti said that after the huge success of the burkini she is now working on designing a similar one for men so they can look "more decent" on the beach.
"All men's bathing suits, regardless of their type, are revealing. A conservative woman with a burkini would most likely be embarrassed to see men's bodies in that way."
The male bathing suit Zanetti is designing will cover what other suits reveal thus making men look more modest and women feel more comfortable on the beach.
Despite the success she is currently enjoying, Zanetti said she was disappointed in the way the Arab media handled her project.
"Although the burkini stirred controversy in the West to the extent that some countries have banned it, not one Arab or Muslim channel or newspaper contacted me about the issue."
(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)
All men's bathing suits, regardless of their type, are revealing. A conservative woman with a burkini would most likely be embarrassed to see men's bodies in that way