France government opposes city's move allowing burkinis in public swimming pools

France government opposes city's move allowing burkinis in public swimming pools
2 min read
18 May, 2022
The French government is seeking to block a decision made by Grenoble's local council to allow women to wear the burkini in public swimming pools.
French Muslim women celebrate Grenoble's city council's decision to allow the wearing of the burkini in public swimming pools [Getty]

The French government is seeking to challenge a decision allowing women to wear the burkini in local swimming pools in the city of Grenoble, the Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.

On Monday, Grenoble announced it would allow women to wear the modest swimsuit in the city’s public swimming pools from 1 June, following a modification to its swimwear rules, the French TV channel TF1 reported.

The city’s Greens-led council approved the measure by a 29-27 vote following an almost four-hour-long debate.

It followed the city of Rennes, which is the only city in France to allow the wearing of the burkini in public pools.

French interior minister Gerald Darmanin called the city council decision an "unacceptable provocation" that went against the republic's "secular values", saying that he would challenge it.

He also announced that an investigation by the public prosecutor will be opened against Alliance Citoyenne (The Citizens Alliance), a local civil rights group that has campaigned for the wearing of the burkini.

The Isere prefecture, where Grenoble is located, also raised objections against the municipality with the Interior Ministry and the administrative court, while the regional authority- Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes- declared it would immediately halt public funding to the city, according to The Guardian.

The city's local mayor, Eric Piolle, has been accused by the regional authority’s right-wing president of "doing deals with political Islam to buy votes".

The burkini covers the body from head to toe, except the face, feet and hands, and is worn by observant Muslim women while swimming.

The wearing of the burkini became a topic of debate in France in 2016, when around 30 coastal towns imposed a ban on the swimwear on their beaches, with right-wing figures pushing for a nationwide ban.

A number of Muslim women were stopped and fined by French police in the tourist cities of Nice and Cannes, also in 2016.

The ban was then found unconstitutional, and was subsequently suspended by France’s top administrative court.

Since 2004, France has foisted a series of bans on Muslim articles of clothing- particularly women's clothing - in the name of secularism.

More recently, the French senate passed a law prohibiting the wearing of the hijab and other religious symbols at sports events.