17 August 2016

Burkini beach row puts French values to test

Burkini or bikini, French commentators have asked, ironically, about this summer's choice of beachwear.

It is no coincidence that the ban on Islamic burkinis - full-body swimsuits - should arise from French Riviera beaches, a few kilometres from Nice, a city struck by a militant Islamist attack that killed 85 people on Bastille Day, just a month ago.

The town of Cannes was the first to pass the summer ban, which was confirmed by the courts on 13 August. And Cannes was soon followed by the towns of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, and Sisco in Corsica.

Even the mayor of the northern seaside resort of Le Touquet is said to be about to pass a similar ban: no burkini will be tolerated on public beaches.

So far a small number of women have been fined (€38 in Cannes - £33; $43) for wearing a burkini on the beach at Cannes. And the mayor's decision has triggered a heated debate.

Cannes mayor David Lisnard has tried to explain his decision in these terms: "The burkini is like a uniform, a symbol of Islamist extremism. This is why I am banning it for the summer." [BBC] Read more