France Is Still 'Obsessed' With Burkinis

Debate is revived after top court upholds ban on garment at public pools
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2022 7:35 PM CDT
French Court Upholds Burkini Ban at Public Pools
In this image taken from video, Nesrine Kenza who says she is happy to be free to wear a burkini, and friends wade into the sea in Marseille, France, Monday Aug. 29, 2016.   (AP Photo, File)

(Newser) – A French city's attempt to loosen swimwear regulations at public pools has been slapped down by the country's highest administrative court, renewing debate about the "burkini." Last month, officials in Grenoble voted to allow women to wear the garment, which covers everything except the face, hands, and feet and is marketed as a way for Muslim women to swim without violating modesty rules, the BBC reports. Officials also voted to allow women to swim topless, reports the AP.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, however, blocked the move on the grounds that it violated French laws on secularism, the Wall Street Journal reports. He called it a "victory for secularism" after the Council of State upheld the burkini ban. The top court said the Grenoble council had voted to "satisfy a religious demand." French law bans headscarves and other religious symbols in schools and government offices, but not in public places like swimming pools, the Journal notes. In 2016, the top court ruled that women could wear burkinis at beaches.

Critics includng far-right leader Marine le Pen have denounced burkinis as "Islamist propagada," while Grenoble's mayor argues that people should be allowed to wear what they want at public pools and elsewhere. Few women in France actually wear the garment, but Arwa Mahdawi at the Guardian says France is "obsessed" with the burkini issue and "huge swathes of the populace are still exerting embarrassing amounts of energy arguing about how much flesh you need to show in order to set foot in a public pool or resort." She urges the French to "eat some cheese, drink some wine, and stop worrying about what other people wear when they swim." (Read more burkini stories.)

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