A French court ruled on Friday that mayors do not have the authority to issue a “burkini ban” in their cities.
The Council of State in France overturned a burkini ban in Villeneuve-Loubet issued by mayor Lionnel Luca, one of the 15 towns that have issued a ban. While the court’s initial ruling was to overturn the ban, more detailed judgement will follow in coming weeks.
The council stated that Villeneuve-Loubet’s ban had “seriously infringed, in a manner that was clearly illegal, fundamental liberties such as the freedom to come and go, religious freedom and individual freedom”.
Luca stated that “We need to decide if we want a smiley, friendly version of sharia on our beaches or if we want the rules of the (French) republic to be implemented,” referring to the Islamic legal and moral code of sharia.
It is likely that other towns will face legal ramifications if they continue to enforce a burkini ban. In any further lawsuits, the Council of State will have the final word.
FRENCH LEADERSHIP RESPONDS
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, however, says he supports the banning of burkinis and that the “debate is not over”. He believes the burkini is a symbol of “backwards, deadly Islamism”, and that France needed a “modern, secular Islam” instead. Valls believes the burkini clashes with that ideal.
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is campaigning for re-election, has stated that if re-elected, he would ban the burkini in France as well.
Contrary to the Prime Minister’s opinion, a spokesman for the currently ruling Socialist Party and the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, welcomed the court ruling and said “he hoped it would calm things down.”
INFRINGING ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Human rights activists are arguing that a burkini ban is Islamophobic, and that police have no right to tell a woman what she can and cannot cover on her body.
Amnesty International’s European Director, John Dalhuisen, has stated that “by overturning a discriminatory ban that is fueled by and is fueling prejudice and intolerance, today’s decision has drawn an important line in the sand.”
He goes on to say that “these bans do nothing to increase public safety, but do a lot to promote public humiliation. Not only are they in themselves discriminatory, but as we have seen, the enforcement of these bans leads to abuses and the degrading treatment of Muslim women and girls.”
Photos of the discrimination in France have spread across social media platforms, creating a huge global outrage. Pictures of a woman in Nice surrounded by police officers show the officers ordering a woman to remove her clothing.
Other incidents cite that even women who aren’t wearing burkini’s, and simply wearing a (legal) headscarf (or even just a sarong used to hide pregnancy scars!) have been singled out by police.
A woman at Cannes beach was fined $42 after she was confronted by three police officers and told to wear her headscarf as a bandana or “leave the beach”.
“I was not wearing a burkini, I was not wearing a burqa, and I was not naked. I think that my outfit was appropriate,” she said. The confrontation divided onlookers, some of which showed support while others shouted abuse.
“The insults were like ‘Go home,’ ‘We don’t want you here’ (and) ‘France is a Catholic country,'” the woman told BFM TV. “Those hurtful words were said in front of my kids. My daughter was crying. She did not understand why her mother had to leave the beach. It’s the first time I faced such discrimination.”
PROTESTS IN RESPONSE
The photos inspired protests over the burkini ban, such as the #wearwhatyouwant demonstration outside of the French Embassy in London. Sand was brought in to create a beach, and women in burkinis sat surrounded by supporters.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” said event organizer Fariah Syed of the burkini ban. “No one, regardless of their religion and race, should be told what they should wear and where they can wear it.’
“It’s important to show solidarity because of the spread of Islamophobia around the globe — especially in France.”
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