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France: Muslim women in Grenoble defy burkini ban

dw.com logo dw.com 2019-06-25 John Silk
a man standing next to a body of water © Provided by Deutsche Welle

With the summer weather heating up in Europe, the debate surrounding the banning of the burkini in France has reemerged. Muslim women defied a local ban over the weekend and wore the Islamic full-body swimsuit, in doing so breaking the rules of a swimming pool in the southeastern city of Grenoble.

Women who wore the swimsuit, which covers the entire body except for the face, hands and feet, were issued a fine of €35 ($40).

The Jean Bron Swimming Pool is among several in France that have banned burkinis and saw many women breaching the rules as part of an organized protest.

"Operation burkini" was created last month by members of the group Citizen Alliance of Grenoble in order to defend Muslim women's rights. The women are demanding that public pools, which currently require men to wear swim briefs and women to wear bikinis or one-piece swimsuits, change their regulations to accommodate burkini wearers.

'Burkini has no place in France': Le Pen

Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen has criticized the activists and called for a firm response from local authorities.

"It's time to say loud and clear that the burkini has no place in France," she tweeted on Monday.

The center-right head of the greater Paris region, Valerie Pecresse, also raised concerns about normalizing the full-body swimsuits.

"If we accept the burkini, in a few years, all the young girls from poor neighborhoods will be bathing covered up, for moral reasons or to protect their reputations," she told Radio Classique.

Two of the women who took part in the protest held a very different view.

Speaking to the BBC, Hassiba and Latifa said they should have the same rights as everyone else.

"We have a dream: to have fun in public swimming pools like all other citizens, to accompany our children whenever they want to have a swim while it is very hot in the summer here in Grenoble.

"We must fight against discriminatory policies and prejudice in France, as we are actually deprived of our civil rights of access to public services and city-owned infrastructures," they told the BBC.

The Citizen Alliance said, via Facebook, that the action was part of a movement that began over a year ago with a petition signed by more than 600 Muslim women. They are pleading with Grenoble Mayor Eric Piolle to change the rules regarding public swimming pools.

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