It’s fast becoming a part of modern Australian beach culture and for many is a symbol of reconciliation.
The full-body ‘burkini’ swimwear, designed by Lebanese-Australian Aheda Zanetti, has empowered Muslim women around the world to respect the modesty constraints of their religion, while enjoying a ‘traditional Aussie’ day on the beach.
As long as that beach isn’t the glamorous resort of Cannes on the French Riviera.
A French court has upheld a decision to ban the wearing of burkinis on the beaches of Cannes after an appeal by anti-racism campaigners.
The Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) backed three women in their challenge of the Cannes ban, saying it was illegal and calling for it to be suspended.
A court in the Riviera city of Nice rejected the appeal, saying the ban is legal under French laws that forbid people from “invoking their religious beliefs to skirt common rules regulating relations between public authorities and private individuals”.
‘Good customs and secularism’
In his ruling, the judge said the Cannes ban had been made “in the context of the state of emergency and recent Islamist attacks, notably in Nice a month ago”.
The nearby Riviera resort of Villeneuve-Loubet followed suit and banned burkinis on its beaches on Saturday.
Cannes mayor David Lisnard originally outlawed the swimwear last month saying “access to beaches and for swimming is banned to anyone who does not have [bathing apparel] which respects good customs and secularism”, which is a founding principle of the French republic.
The move was immediately criticised by anti-racism organisations and human rights groups as “deeply worrying”.
Thierry Migoule, head of municipal services in Cannes, attempted to explain the intent of the burkini ban, which is in place until the end of the northern summer.
“We are not talking about banning the wearing of religious symbols on the beach … but ostentatious clothing which refers to an allegiance to terrorist movements which are at war with us,” he said.
Cannes is home to the annual Cannes Film Festival and is famous for glamour and fashion.
While the full-body burkini is banned in Cannes, topless sunbathing is common on the resort’s beaches.
The burkini story
According to the official Burkini website, Zanetti developed the swimwear in line with the Islamic code of dress and has received official approval and certification from the Islamic community to encourage girls participating in sport.
It says the burkini attracted significant interest and demand soon after it was first developed, “clearly answering the needs of many women keen to participate in the sporting lifestyle of Australia and many other countries”.
The Cannes ban comes at sensitive time for Muslim-Christian relations in France after a series of attacks last month linked to the Islamic State (IS).
On July 14, Nice was the target of a horrific attack – claimed by IS – which killed 85 people when a truck ploughed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day.
Later in the month, an 85-year-old priest was murdered in his church in north-western France by two attackers who had earlier announced their allegiance to IS.
The full-faced Islamic veil is already banned in public places in France.
- With Agencies