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Ten women stopped over banned burkini in France

Cannes is one of several towns in France to have banned the burkini [AFP]

Date of publication: 18 August, 2016

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Ten Muslim women wearing burkinis to the beach have been stopped by police in the Cannes in the three weeks since a temporary ban was imposed on the full-body swimsuit.
French police have stopped 10 Muslim women wearing burkinis to the beach in the southern city of Cannes in the three weeks since a temporary ban was imposed on the full body swimsuit, a local official said.

Six of the women left the beach, while four were fined 38 euros ($43), a Cannes town hall spokesperson told Reuters on Wednesday.

"Following the [Nice] attacks, the atmosphere is very tense and the burkini is seen as an ostentatious display that can threaten public order, that is why we took the measure," she said.

Cannes is one of several towns in France to have banned the burkini, arguing that they wish to avert "public disorder" in the context of a heightened fear of extremist attacks, notably after an Islamist militant attack in nearby Nice killed 85 people on Bastille Day on 14 July.

However, under French law, the burkini is supposed to be allowed as it does not conceal the face. Only the niqab, which covers the face, has been banned since 2011.

The ban sparked an intense public debate, with Muslim groups calling it unconstitutional, divisive and Islamophobic.

Abdallah Zekri, head of the National Observatory against Islamophobia, told BFM television that some French politicians were using the burkini debate to stigmatise Islam.

"It is terrible to see that the prime minister stokes the fire rather than trying to put it out," Zekri said.

The Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative court, will rule on the legality of burkini bans in coming days.

Read also: France's phantom values: 'Freedom and equality




In neighbouring Italy, the interior minister said Rome would not be following the French example, but is planning tighter regulation of imams and mosques.

Angelino Alfano told the Corriere della Sera daily that he regarded France's restrictions on Islamic clothing as counter-productive because of the potential backlash it could provoke.

"It does not seem to me that the French model has worked for the best," said Alfano.

"The interior ministry's responsibility is to guarantee security and to decide the severity of responses which however must never become provocations that could potentially attract attacks.”

The burkini - a contraction of "bikini" and "burqa" - is a body-concealing swimsuit worn by Muslim women who wish to keep themselves covered from head to ankles.

The Muslim holy book does not explicitly require wearing a veil or head covering and opinions vary over the interpretation of its writings on the subject, according to Franck Fregosi, an Islam expert at France's national research centre (CNRS).

"There are references to rules of modesty, but no codification," he says.

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