May­ors de­fy­ing burkini rul­ing

Many French cities still en­force bans

Baltimore Sun - - WORLD - By Kim Will­sher The As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted.

PARIS — May­ors along the French Riviera are de­fy­ing a court or­der to lift the ban on full-body bathing suits known as burki­nis.

In a test case last week France’s State Coun­cil ruled that out­law­ing the swim­ming ap­parel was a “se­ri­ous and man­i­festly il­le­gal vi­o­la­tion of fun­da­men­tal free­doms.”

Though it cov­ered only the re­sort of Vil­leneu­veLou­bet, the rul­ing set what was ex­pected to be­come a le­gal prece­dent for the roughly 30 coastal re­sorts that in­tro­duced the bans this sum­mer.

In­stead, the judg­ment sparked de­fi­ance.

On Mon­day, most of the bans were still be­ing en­forced along the Cote d’Azur in­clud­ing in Nice and Cannes.

The bans, is­sued by may­ors as short-term de­crees, have pro­voked a heated po­lit­i­cal de­bate in France.

Those in fa­vor of the ban cite France’s mil­i­tant sec­u­lar­ism and de­cry the burkini as a sym­bol of po­lit­i­cal Is­lam and women’s op­pres­sion.

Op­po­nents say of­fi­cials have no place de­cid­ing what peo­ple should or should not wear and the ban is dis­crim­i­na­tory and de­lib­er­ately tar­gets Mus­lims fol­low­ing a string of ter­ror­ist at­tacks since Novem­ber.

Gil Bernardi, the mayor of the Mediter­ranean sea­side re­sort of Le La­van­dou and one of the first to French In­te­rior Min­is­ter Bernard Cazeneuve met Mon­day with Mus­lim lead­ers, pro­fes­sion­als and some law­mak­ers. in­tro­duce a ban on cloth­ing “not con­sis­tent with sec­u­lar­ism and hy­giene,” vowed the ban would stay.

“In Le La­van­dou there are no burki­nis on the beaches and we’re mak­ing sure of it. The beach is a place to re­lax, not a place of ide­o­log­i­cal or re­li­gious con­fronta­tion,” Bernardi said. “A large black out­fit has no place on the beach or in the wa­ter. It could be in­ter­preted as a provo­ca­tion.”

France’s So­cial­ist gov­ern­ment is di­vided on the is­sue.

Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls said the State Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion was “not the end of the de­bate in our so­ci­ety about the burkini,” but In­te­rior Min­is­ter Bernard Cazeneuve has re­buffed calls for leg­is­la­tion against it.

“A law would be not only un­con­sti­tu­tional and in­ef­fi­cient, it would risk in­creas­ing an­tag­o­nism and ir­repara­ble ten­sions,” Cazeneuve told the Catholic news­pa­per La Croix. Only di­a­logue, the min­is­ter added, would com­bat the “dan­ger­ous strat­egy of di­vi­sion” that threat­ens to split France.

He spoke af­ter a day­long con­fer­ence with Mus­lim lead­ers, pro­fes­sion­als and some law­mak­ers to try to mount a project meant to bind Mus­lims to the na­tion, a task given new ur­gency af­ter deep di­vi­sions sur­faced over the burkini bans.

Two lead­ing can­di­dates in the op­po­si­tion cen­ter right Les Repub­li­cains party pri­maries — for­mer Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy, and Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppe — have de­clared their sup­port for a na­tion­wide ban on burki­nis and Mus­lim head scarves in univer­si­ties and pri­vate com­pa­nies.

Veils and head scarves are al­ready banned in schools and pub­lic spa­ces.

Sarkozy, who has been ac­cused of pan­der­ing to the far right to boost his pop­u­lar­ity, told RTL ra­dio Mon­day: “Is it for so­ci­ety to adapt to the law ... or the law to adapt to so­ci­ety?” and added the burkini is­sue was “a provo­ca­tion by an Is­lam that is po­lit­i­cal, ex­treme and is test­ing the lim­its of the repub­lic.”

Mus­lim groups have launched le­gal chal­lenges to the bans in sev­eral French Riviera re­sorts.

Also on Mon­day, French po­lice opened an in­quiry af­ter a video show­ing a res­tau­ra­teur ap­par­ently re­fus­ing to serve two Mus­lim women wear­ing hi­jabs sparked out­rage af­ter it was shared on so­cial me­dia.

The man, who has not been named, is heard telling the women, “Ter­ror­ists are Mus­lims and all Mus­lims are ter­ror­ists. I don’t want peo­ple like you in my place, end of story. At least that’s clear,” he is heard say­ing.

Fam­ily and women’s rights Min­is­ter Lau­rence Ros­sig­nol in a tweet de­scribed the res­tau­ra­teur’s be­hav­ior as “in­tol­er­a­ble.”

MATTHIEU ALEXAN­DRE/GETTY-AFP

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