French court blocks city's bid to allow burkinis

The bathing suit has for years been a topic of hot debate in France

A woman wears a burkini at a beach in the French city of Marseille. Reuters
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A top French court has blocked a bid to allow the burkini at municipal pools in Grenoble, upholding a government challenge against a move that sparked fierce debate on Islamic dress.

The Council of State, France's top administrative court, said on Tuesday that “very selective exception to the rules to satisfy religious demands … risks affecting the proper functioning of public services and equal treatment of their users”.

Grenoble City Council, which is dominated by the Greens, last month lifted restrictions on the wearing of the burkini. The outcome of a vote allowed all types of swimming costumes for men and women to be worn in public pools.

The burkini is prohibited in most state-run pools in France for hygienic, not religious, reasons. Strict swimwear rules apply to both males and females, stipulating that men have to wear tight-fitting trunks.

The all-in-one swimsuit, used by some Muslim women to cover their bodies and hair while bathing in public, has for years been a controversial issue in France.

Critics say the modest bathing attire has become a symbol of Islam’s growth in the European nation.

“All we want is for women and men to be able to dress how they want,” Mr Piolle said after the vote in May.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin welcomed Tuesday's court decision. He tweeted that it was “a victory for the law against separatism, for secularism and beyond that, for the whole republic”, referring to a law introduced last year to counter Islamist radicalism.

Attempts by several local mayors in the south of France to ban the burkini on Mediterranean beaches in the summer of 2016 started the debate about the burkini.

The restrictions were eventually overturned for being discriminatory.

The north-western city of Rennes quietly updated its pool code in 2019 to allow burkinis and other types of swimwear.

Updated: June 21, 2022, 3:14 PM
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