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Burkini ban: female activists praised for defiant protest in France

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Almara Abgarian
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A group of women protesting and holding a sign that reads: "Islamophobia is not freedom"

Activists from the rights group Alliance Cityoenne said the ban is discriminatory. 

In 2011, France passed a controversial law.

The country, which has the largest population of Muslims in Europe, announced that it would be imposing a ban on wearing full veils – which applies to face-covering, as well as full body burkas – in public. 

The decision was met with criticism from people who claimed it breached religious freedom and caused concerns around female equality. 

However, despite loud voices opposing the law, the European court of human rights upheld the ban in 2014. 

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The law may have passed eight years ago, but anger is still brewing in the country.

On Sunday last week (23 June), seven women, all dressed in burkinis, went for a swim at two public pools in Grenoble – a move which caused lifeguards to shut down the facilities, due to ‘safety’ concerns.

The women, who were from the French rights group, Alliance Cityoenne, demanded that they be allowed to wear their full body swimwear and said that the ban was discriminatory. 

According to a statement issued by the town hall, the lifeguards chose to close the pools because ‘they are there to maintain safety and they can’t do that when they have to worry about the crowds’.

Additionally, officials claim they are “working towards a positive solution” – but they have yet to make any further announcements on the issue.

This isn’t the first time France has experienced tension around burkini bans. 

Following the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015 and the truck attack in Nice in July 2016, that summer 15 towns banned the clothing item and reasoned that it was a matter of national security. 

According to Nice, the burkini “overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks”.  

The bans were later overturned by the courts.

Far-right politicians didn’t take well to the Grenoble incident. 

One parliamentary member of the right-win Republican Party, Eric Ciotti, said the burkini ‘has no place in France where women are equal to men’. 

However, Alliance Cityoenne received a lot of support on its Instagram page, with many commenting with one word: “bravo”.

The group compared its protest to that actions of famous American activist, Rosa Parks, and expressed that public pools should change their regulations to include burkinis and allow Muslim women to wear what they want. 

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