French Towns Ban “Burkini Swimsuits” from Beaches Citing Security Concerns
PARIS – The mayor of a Corsican town has banned full-body swimsuits known as “burkinis” after a clash between local residents and Muslim bathers of North African origin.
Ange-Pierre Vivoni is the latest French mayor to prohibit the swimwear, which is worn by some Muslim women, in the wake of Islamic extremist attacks this summer.
Vivoni said on France-Info radio Monday that the ban in his town of Sisco is aimed at calming religious tensions and protecting Muslims.
The Interior Ministry says a clash Saturday in Sisco that left at least four people injured and three cars torched reportedly started over the presence of women in burkinis.
The ban comes just days after the French resort of Cannes banned full-body, head-covering swimsuits from its beaches, citing security reasons — a measure some are decrying as a discriminatory anti-Muslim move that only worsens religious tensions.
The ban on so-called burkinis, at the height of the French Riviera’s vacation season, comes as France remains on edge after deadly Islamic extremist attacks on nearby Nice and on a Catholic church in northwest France.
Cannes Mayor David Lisnard issued an ordinance in late July forbidding beachwear that doesn’t respect “good morals and secularism.”
The mayor calls the burkini “the uniform of extremist Islamism, not of the Muslim religion.” In an interview published Friday in Nice-Matin newspaper, Lisnard said the measure could also apply to saris worn by Indian bathers, because the clothing could hamper rescuers’ efforts to save them in an emergency.
The Cannes beach ban is just the latest of many French measures seen as singling out Islam, the country’s No. 2 religion, in the name of official secularism.
French law already forbids face-covering veils anywhere in public, and headscarves in public schools. Proponents say the laws preserve secular values and protect women from religious oppression. But critics say they’ve deepened the religious divide, and Islamic State extremists say the laws are justification for attacking France.
The local branch of the Human Rights League warned that the burkini bans could further alienate French Muslims.
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