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Muslim women in France defy burkini ban

June 25, 2019

Muslim women have pushed back against a ban on burkinis at a public pool, provoking a firm response from the far right. National Rally leader Marine Le Pen said the all-encompassing swimsuit has "no place in France."

Burkini (Rolf Haid dpa/lsw)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

With the summer weather heating up, the debate surrounding the banning of the burkini in France has reemerged. Muslim women defied a local ban over the weekend and wore the Islamic full-body swimsuit, breaking the rules of a swimming pool in the southeastern city of Grenoble by doing so.

Women who wore the swimsuit, which covers the entire body except for the face, hands and feet, were issued a fine of €35 ($40).

Read more: Sports Illustrated features burkini model

The Jean Bron Swimming Pool is among several in France that have banned burkinis, and it saw many women breaching the rules as part of an organized protest.

"Operation Burkini" was created last month by members of the group Citizen Alliance of Grenoble in order to defend Muslim women's rights. The women are demanding that public pools, which currently require men to wear swim briefs and women to wear bikinis or one-piece swimsuits, change their regulations to accommodate burkini wearers.

Burkinis banned on 3 French beaches

'Burkini has no place in France': Le Pen

Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen has criticized the activists and called for a firm response from local authorities.

"It's time to say loud and clear that the burkini has no place in France," she tweeted on Monday.

The center-right head of the greater Paris region, Valerie Pecresse, also raised concerns about normalizing the full-body swimsuits.

"If we accept the burkini, in a few years, all the young girls from poor neighborhoods will be bathing covered up, for moral reasons or to protect their reputations," she told Radio Classique.

Two of the women who took part in the protest held a very different view.

Speaking to the BBC, Hassiba and Latifa said they should have the same rights as everyone else.

"We have a dream: to have fun in public swimming pools like all other citizens, to accompany our children whenever they want to have a swim while it is very hot in the summer here in Grenoble.

Read more: Burkinis should be allowed in German swim classes, says family minister

"We must fight against discriminatory policies and prejudice in France, as we are actually deprived of our civil rights of access to public services and city-owned infrastructures," they told the BBC.

The Citizen Alliance said, via Facebook, that the action was part of a movement that began over a year ago with a petition signed by more than 600 Muslim women. They are pleading with Grenoble Mayor Eric Piolle to change the rules regarding public swimming pools.

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John Silk Editor and writer for English news, as well as the Culture and Asia Desks.@JSilk