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Controversial burkini ban to be decided by French court tomorrow

The ruling, due tomorrow afternoon, is likely to set a precedent for around 30 French towns which have banned the burkini, mostly in the southeast.

FRANCE’S HIGHEST ADMINISTRATIVE court will decide tomorrow whether to overturn the ban on wearing the burkini which has sparked controversy at home and abroad.

The State Council began hearing arguments today from the Human Rights League and an anti-Islamophobia group which are seeking to reverse a decision by the southern town of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, to ban the Islamic swimsuit.

The ruling, due tomorrow afternoon, is likely to set a precedent for around 30 French towns which have banned the burkini, mostly in the southeast.

A court in the Riviera city of Nice upheld the ban this week.

The burkini bans have triggered a fierce debate in France and elsewhere about the wearing of the full-body swimsuit, women’s rights and secularism.

Anger over the issue was further inflamed yesterday when photographs emerged in the media of police surrounding a woman in a headscarf on a Nice beach removing a long-sleeved top.

‘Religious proselytising’

Britain Burkini Protest Activists protest outside the French embassy in London. Source: Frank Augstein

But the office of Nice’s mayor denied that the woman had been forced to remove clothing, telling AFP she was showing police the swimsuit she was wearing under her top, over a pair of leggings, when the picture was taken.

The police issued her with a fine and she left the beach, the officials added.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said he condemned any “stigmatisation” of Muslims, but maintained that the burkini was “a political sign of religious proselytising”.

“We are not at war with Islam… the French republic is welcoming (to Muslims), we are protecting them against discrimination,” he told BFMTV.

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But in a sign of the divisions within the Socialist government on the issue, Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the “proliferation” of burkini bans “was not a welcome development”.

‘No link to terrorism’

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President Francois Hollande made his first comment on the issue today, saying life in France “supposes that everyone sticks to the rules and that there is neither provocation nor stigmatisation”.

The former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who this week launched his bid to regain the presidency, has described the burkini as a “provocation”.

The administrative court in Nice ruled on Monday that the Villeneuve-Loubet ban was “necessary” to prevent public disorder after the truck attack in Nice and the murder of a Catholic priest by two jihadists in northern France.

© – AFP, 2016

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