Burkini: A Muslim swimmer wears a garment like the one that was banned
A 35-year-old French convert to Islam has threatened legal action after she was evicted from a public pool for wearing a "burkini" – a veil, trouser and tunic covering that she said allowed her to swim while preserving her modesty.
The case revolving around the pool east of Paris has reopened France's bitter row about how Muslim women can dress.
Carole, who would not give her surname, bought the suit while on holiday in Dubai and wore it swimming with her children once at a local pool in Emerainville. The second time she wore it, she was banned. "What annoys me is that I have been made to believe this is a political problem," she told Le Parisien. Carole, who converted to Islam at the age of 17, said she would seek advice from anti-discrimination groups.
The local authorities in Emerainville said the case had nothing to do with Islam, but regulations stated that garments bigger than standard swimsuits, including men's board-shorts, could not be worn in pools for hygiene reasons.
In recent years, local politicians in some areas have protested at proposed women-only swimming hours as an affront to the French republic, where everyone is equal. When a town in Rhône-Alpes ran a trial women-only swimming session at a public pool last year, a local councillor from Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling centre-right UMP party denounced it as the takeover of a secular, republican public space for religious reasons.
A parliamentary committee is currently considering whether to introduce a law to ban women in France from wearing full Islamic veils in public places after a petition from 50 MPs calling for restrictions on veils with face coverings. The communist MP André Gerin, who heads the parliamentary committee, said the woman's burkini swimsuit was "ridiculous" and "clearly a militant provocation". He said a political agenda was behind such clothing and his committee would look at "fundamentalist pressures" encroaching on sporting dress codes in France.
Critics have warned that focussing on niqabs, or full veils, is a marginal issue in France. A recent security services survey estimated that around 300 women wore them.
In 2004, France banned standard headscarves and all conspicuous religious symbols from state schools.
French Muslim convert threatens legal action over 'burkini' ban | World news | guardian.co.uk