French City Reignites Burkini Debate Amid Plans to Drop Swimming Pool Dress Codes
15:44 GMT 16.05.2022 (Updated: 19:28 GMT 03.11.2022)
Specialised full-body burkini swimwear allows Muslim women to visit beaches and swimming pools without violating Islam’s religious dogmas. However, some conservative-minded French citizens oppose the move as they associate them with creeping Islamism and the violation of the country's secular traditions.
A hot debate has been sparked in the French city of Grenoble after the city council announced plans to discard swimming pool dress code. The move will effectively allow visitors to wear beach shorts and burkinis: full-body swimsuits for Muslim women.
While beach shorts are apparently of little concern, some conservatives have strongly opposed the idea of re-introducing burkinis in the French Alps. Currently, such swimwear is prohibited, allegedly for hygiene reasons. However, conservatives are more concerned with the cultural implications and what they describe as creeping Islamism in secular France, than germs.
"The burkini aims, purely and simply, to impose Islamist values at the heart of bathing areas and public leisure pursuits", an open letter of Grenoble city councillors opposing the move read.
Islam requires females to cover their bodies outside of their homes, forcing them to wear special full-body swimsuits on beaches and at swimming pools. Most French cities banned such suits in 2016 despite the protests of Muslim communities.
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Head of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Laurent Wauquiez, slammed the actions of the Grenoble mayor for "defending a dreadful dead-end for our country". He threatened to cut the city's funding if Mayor Eric Piolle continues "doing deals with political Islam" in order to "buy votes". Piolle, however, denied that the move to scrap the dress code is solely about burkinis.
"Our intention is to remove all of the abnormal clothing restrictions. The issue is not for or against the burkini specifically", the mayor said.
The expected removal of the ban sparked renewed political debate around France. The burkini previously caused widespread controversy as southern mayors banned the Muslim bathing suits from Mediterranean beaches in the summer of 2016. The move came in the wake of deadly terrorist attacks in France, with the one claiming 137 Parisian lives in November 2015.
Demonstrations both for and against the dropping of the dress code have already been scheduled in Grenoble following the city council vote.