Nice has become the latest French resort to ban a modest bathing suit worn by some Muslims. Burkinis are marketed as facilitating seaside frolics while allowing women to keep covered if they choose.
On Friday, Nice barred apparel that "overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks." In other words, that made the seaside resort the latest town in France to ban burkinis, a modest bathing garment worn by a relative few Muslim women.
The seafront of Nice was the scene of the Bastille Day truck attack which was claimed by the "Islamic State" group. The death toll from the July 14 attack was raised to 86 on Friday after a man who was hospitalized with injuries died.
In total, fifteen towns have banned burkinis, including nearby Cannes, where three women each forked over 38 euros ($43) for defying the ban at the weekend.
Certain politicians say burkinis, which resemble full-body wetsuits with hoods, oppress women and violate France's secular principles. But many see the bans as discriminatory.
In a letter made public on Tuesday Deputy Mayor Christian Estrosi wrote to Prime Minister Manuel Valls that "hiding the face or wearing a full-body costume to go to the beach is not in keeping with our ideal of social relations."
Valls has called burkinis "not compatible with the values of France and the Republic." The Socialist premier said such modest swimwear was "founded on the subjugation of women."
The Human Rights League has accused Valls of "participating in the stigmatization of a category of French people who have become suspect by virtue of their faith."
In 2010, six years after banning conspicuous religious symbols in public schools, France became the first EU country to outlaw veils worn by some observant women, and the Europe-wide debate over permissible clothing continues.
German leaders have made known their distaste for niqabs and burqas, but they do not appear willing to pursue an outright ban on such public displays of faith. Believeing that backlash would prove counterproductive, Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano has said his country would not ban burkinis.
mkg/se (AFP, AP)