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France: Muslim activists fined for swimming in burkinis

27th Aug 2021

Nadine Osman

Six Muslim women were fined and temporarily banned from swimming for wearing “burkinis” in a municipal pool in southeast-central France.

The women were taking part in a pro-burkini protest on July 21 at a pool in Grenoble, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, where burkinis are banned.

32 women campaigners representing the Association Alliance Citoyenne, along with the six burkini-clad activists, went to the Jean Bron Swimming Pool.

The women entered the city pool, causing the pool to be evacuated at the request of officials, French police said.

They were also banned from swimming for two months.

Grenoble city hall said the activists had blocked access to the pool and were removed and banned from entering the facility for two months.

In a statement to The Muslim News, Naïma, who has been unable to swim in a public pool for a decade, branding her 20 minutes of swimming time “minutes of happiness”.

A spokesman for the Association Alliance Citoyenne told The Muslim News the protestors ‘entered the pool after buying their tickets and after changing in the lockers. Upon seeing their full-body swimsuits, security guards tried to deny the campaigners access to the pool, but they managed to enter through an unwatched entry. All the women involved respected the principles of non-violence that go along with the principles of civil disobedience.

Six women managed to get into the pool. But some security guards were violent with some campaigners.
“One of them hustled me and almost pulled my arm off,” says Taous, one of the campaigners, “Another one violently pushed me,” added Naïma.

The pro-burkini group noted that covering swimsuits are allowed in Rennes, the Brittany capital, and also in public pools in Germany, Britain, Italy and Norway. They also cited an opinion in December from George Pau-Langevin, Deputy National Ombudsman, which held that barring burkinis amounted to discrimination.

“Since they are designed for bathing, neither the security nor the hygiene of bathers appears on the face of it to be threatened,” she wrote.

There is no blanket ban on burkinis across France, but in August 2016, the mayor of Cannes banned the swimsuits, citing a possible link to “Islamic extremism”. Since then, at least 20 other French towns, including Nice, joined the ban. Many people in the country regard the burkini as a symbol of “political Islam” and incompatible with secularism.

Former mayor, Alain Carignon, was indignant: “The people of Grenoble are deprived of their swimming pools. Two are already closed. There are also gangs that come to clash there. Grenoble is the only city where you have to register three days earlier on the internet to be able to swim. And now there is political Islamism which tries to impose the burkini in the swimming pools.”

Annabelle Bretton, the deputy mayor of Grenoble, said, “We told them that we would always act this way with every action of this type because we apply the house rules. They want us to change it, but for now, it is not the order of the day. We have already received them three times.”

In June 2019, a dozen women supported by the Citizens’ Alliance had carried out similar actions in the same pool in Grenoble in an “act of civil disobedience”. Last year, the city’s mayor Piolle had, in a letter to French Prime Minister Jean Castex, asked the Government to decide at the national level whether or not to ban burkinis.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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