A Muslim woman is pictured wearing a 'burkini', a full-body swimsuit designed for Muslim women which leaves only the face, hands and feet exposed
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French court overturns rule that would have allowed the wearing of burkinis in swimming pools on grounds it would ‘seriously undermine secularism’

  • A French administrative court has suspended the city of Grenoble’s decision
  • The city council had voted in favour of allowing the use of burkinis on May 16
  • But the move prompted a major backlash from conservative politicians
  • France is a secular country where niqab and burqa veils are banned in public

A French administrative court has suspended the city of Grenoble’s decision to allow body-covering ‘burkini’ bathing suits for women in municipal pools, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on his Twitter feed.

Darmanin said his ministry had filed an objection against the burkini permit in Grenoble, an ecologist-run city in the French Alps, close to Italy.

‘The administrative court considers that the mayor of Grenoble, with his decision allowing burkinis in municipal pools, is seriously undermining secularism,’ Darmanin said.

The municipal council of Grenoble, following a proposal by its ecologist mayor Eric Piolle, had voted in favour of allowing the use of burkinis on May 16, sparking howls of protest from conservative and far-right politicians.

A Muslim woman is pictured wearing a 'burkini', a full-body swimsuit designed for Muslim women which leaves only the face, hands and feet exposed

A Muslim woman is pictured wearing a ‘burkini’, a full-body swimsuit designed for Muslim women which leaves only the face, hands and feet exposed

Muslim rights organisations in France have said that bans on burkinis - which leave only the face, hands and feet exposed - restrict fundamental liberties and discriminate against Muslim women (pro-burkini association members are seen watching council vote on May 16 in Grenoble)

Muslim rights organisations in France have said that bans on burkinis – which leave only the face, hands and feet exposed – restrict fundamental liberties and discriminate against Muslim women (pro-burkini association members are seen watching council vote on May 16 in Grenoble)

Darmanin said the court ruling was based on the 2021 ‘separatism’ law voted during President Emmanuel Macron’s first term, which allows the suspension of measures that would ‘undermine secularism and the neutrality of public services.’

Far-right party leader Marine Le Pen – who came second after Macron in presidential elections in April and hopes to defeat Macron’s centrist party at parliament elections in June – has said she wants to introduce a law banning burkinis in municipal pools.

Muslim rights organisations in France have said that bans on burkinis – which leave only the face, hands and feet exposed – restrict fundamental liberties and discriminate against Muslim women.

France, which has the largest Muslim minority in Europe, estimated at 5 million, in 2010 introduced a ban on full-face niqab and burqa veils in public. 

President Macron has since continued to implement policies designed to uphold France’s prised secular values, and has overseen the closure of numerous mosques, schools and Islamic groups with help from a special team to root out suspected breeding grounds for radicalism.

In the climax of France's presidential campaign last month, centrist President Emmanuel Macron said far-right contender Marine Le Pen would trigger a civil war if she were to ban the wearing of any religious clothing in public

In the climax of France’s presidential campaign last month, centrist President Emmanuel Macron said far-right contender Marine Le Pen would trigger a civil war if she were to ban the wearing of any religious clothing in public

But during a debate in the run up to last month’s presidential election, he said Le Pen would trigger a ‘civil war’ by introducing even more rigid regulations were she to gain power.

The National Assembly leader pledged to take things a step further by placing an outright ban on religious clothing in public – a law she says would be enforced like ‘wearing a seatbelt in a car’. 

Headscarves are common apparel for many Muslim women, and Le Pen’s opposition to the garment has encapsulated what her critics say makes her dangerous to French unity and the reason why she lost the election.

Le Pen also claimed she would slash immigration outlaw ritual slaughter, which would restrict French Muslims’ and Jews’ access to kosher and halal meat.

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