French justice blocks “burkinis” in municipal swimming pools
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Grenoble (France) (AFP) – A French court has intervened in a dispute over the wearing of burkinis in municipal swimming pools, suspending a council’s decision allowing Muslim women to wear them.
The administrative court in the Alpine city of Grenoble blocked the rule change by the local council, arguing that it “seriously violated the principle of neutrality in public service”.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin hailed the court ruling as “excellent news” in a post on Twitter on Wednesday evening.
The decision is the latest development in a long-running dispute that pits defenders of France’s secular values against those who argue that the burkini ban constitutes discrimination.
The all-in-one swimsuit, used by some Muslim women to cover their body and hair while bathing, is a controversial topic in France where critics see it as a symbol of creeping Islamization.
The governor of the Isere region in southeastern France had asked the court to intervene to prevent the rule change from taking effect in June.
The new rule had been championed by Grenoble mayor Eric Piolle, one of the country’s most prominent green politicians who locally leads a broad left-wing coalition.
The rule changes the council had approved would have allowed all types of swimwear, not just traditional swimsuits for women and boxer shorts for men. Women would also have been free to wash their bare breasts if they so chose.
The judges delivered their decision on Wednesday evening after hearing arguments earlier in the day.
In their ruling, they said the council’s rule change meant some people could cite religious reasons for not following the usual dress code at council swimming pools.
Under a new law against ‘Islamist separatism’ passed by parliament last year, the government can challenge decisions it suspects undermine France’s strict secular traditions of separating religions from Europe. State.
Attempts by several local mayors in the south of France to ban the burkini on Mediterranean beaches in the summer of 2016 sparked the first storm around swimwear.
The rules, introduced after a series of terror attacks in France, were eventually struck down as discriminatory.
Three years later, a group of women in Grenoble forced their way into a swimming pool wearing burkinis, sparking a political row.
The French sports brand Decathlon found itself at the center of the controversy and was forced in 2019 to abandon its plan to sell a “sports hijab” allowing Muslim women to cover their hair while running.
The burkini debate comes as French Muslim women footballers fight to overturn a ban on the wearing of religious symbols in competitive matches.
The French Football Federation currently prohibits players from playing while wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols such as the Muslim hijab or the Jewish yarmulke.
A women’s collective known as ‘the Hijabeuses’ launched a legal challenge to the rules in November last year.
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