French high court to rule on Islamic burkini swimsuit ban | News | DW | 23.08.2016
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French high court to rule on Islamic burkini swimsuit ban

A ban on the burkini swimsuit by several French towns has been taken before the highest administrative court. Its ruling comes after a woman was fined in Cannes for wearing a headscarf on a beach.

The French human rights group Human Rights League (LDH) is appealing a decision by a lower court in Nice, which upheld a ban on the outfit by the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, west of the city this week.

The group said in a statement it believes the burkini ban is a "serious and illegal attack on numerous fundamental rights" including freedom of religion.

The court "should give its ruling within [a couple of weeks] and definitively fix the matter, legally," LDH lawyer Patrice Spinosi told French news agency AFP.

A Nice tribunal ruled on Monday that the ban in Villeneuve-Loubet was "necessary, appropriate and proportionate" to prevent public disorder. It stated that the burkini was "liable to offend the religious convictions or (religious) non-convictions of other users of the beach," and "be felt as a defiance or a provocation exacerbating tensions felt by" the community.

Villeneuve-Loubet was one of the first of 15 French towns to ban the burkini. This set off a debate in France about the wearing of the full-body swimsuit, women's rights and secularity.

Effects on the ground

In one the first cases of the effects of the ban coming into force, on Tuesday a mother of two told AFP she had been fined on the beach in Cannes for wearing leggings, a tunic and a headscarf. The charge was for not wearing "an outfit respecting good morals and secularism." Additionally, three women were each fined 38 euros ($43) under the ban over the weekend.

The July 14 truck attack in Nice that killed 86 people and the July 26 murder of a priest in northwest France appear to have lowered the bar of fear and tolerance: With an estimated 5 million Muslims, France has the largest such population in Western Europe.

The country was the first in Europe to ban the Islamic face veil in public in 2010, six years after outlawing the headscarf and other conspicuous religious symbols in state schools, although it is not illegal to wear a headscarf in public.

In Belgium there is a law banning face-covering veils that went into force in 2011 and there is a push by some conservative politicians in Germany to ban face-covering veils in German public schools, courts and while driving.

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Burkinis are banned on three french beaches

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