Following the Bastille Day attack in Nice back in June, the French Riviera remains on high alert with stricter conduct and security at the height of Europe’s summer holidays, the resort town of Cannes has introduced a ban on burkinis – the full body swimsuits worn by Muslim women at the beach.
From Cannes Mayor David Lisnard’s words, the burkinis are “the symbol of Islamic extremism.” He’s also stated that since France is currently the target of many terrorist attacks, beachwear that displays religious affiliation is liable in creating public doubt and disorder. The ban has already come into effect at the popular Cannes resorts and while Muslim women are still allowed to wear veils to cover their hair, violators who are caught wearing the full-body swimsuits will be fined €38 (equivalent to $50AUD).
Following the ban at Cannes, a mayor on another French island of Corsica has also announced the ban on burkinis, following a clash that disrupted much of the public. Mayor Sisco Ange-Pierre Vivoni has stated over a telephone interview that the decision to enforce the ban was not against the Muslim religion, but to avoid the spread of fundamentalism and fear.
Such secularism is rooted in the general idea that the state itself is neutral and that citizens within French and European soil should still be able to freely express their religious views, so it seems to be extremely ignorant that mayors of such prominent cities with obvious cultural wealth from international tourism would make such a generalisation that terrorist attacks are linked to wearing religious clothing. Research actually states that primary victims of terrorist attacks, regardless of the geological location, are actually Muslims, therefore implying that the decision made for the ban implies a link to fanaticism.
Interestingly enough, the European Convention on Human Rights has a section on religious freedom where “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
This is not the first time that Muslim women have been targets of discrimination in France, with the nation being the first country ever in Europe to ban the burka in 2011. The collective Against Islamphobia in France has condemned the ban and are expected to take the case to the highest administrative court to bring down the discrimination against Muslims and specifically, Muslim women who choose to wear their headscarves. The French media has also questioned the legality of the ban, stating that no French law bans the wearing of full-body swimsuits as “the law on the burka (full-face veil) only bans covering the face in public… the burkini, which covers the body but does not hide the face, is thus a totally legal garment.”
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