Friday, August 26, 2016

Court Suspends ‘Burkini’ Ban in French Town By AURELIEN BREEDEN AUG. 26, 2016 - The New York Times

Court Suspends ‘Burkini’ Ban in French Town 


A woman wore a so-called burkini to a demonstration in London on Thursday against measures in France banning the full-body swimwear at beaches. CreditHannah Mckay/European Pressphoto Agency

PARIS — France’s highest administrative court on Friday suspended a ban by a Mediterranean town on bathing at its beaches in so-called burkinis, the full-body swimwear used by some Muslim women that has become the focus of intense debates over women’s rights, assimilation and secularism in France.
The Council of State, the highest court in the French administrative justice system, ruled that the ban, enacted by the town of Villeneuve-Loubet on Aug. 5, violated civil liberties.
At least 20 other municipalities, most of which are on the French Riviera, have imposed similar bans, and although the decision on Tuesday does not apply directly to them, it is seen as a test case.
Critics of the bans have said they unfairly targeted Muslims and stirred up fear in the wake of deadly terrorist attacks in France and elsewhere in Europe.
The bans recently provoked a backlash in France and abroad, after photographs spread online showing armed police officers enforcing them.
The bans have also fueled an intense political debate and split the French government, with Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressing support for them and several female ministers opposing the restrictions, even as they expressed distaste for the garments.
Anti-discrimination and human rights groups challenged the restrictions in local courts, but the rules were upheld, leading the groups to appeal to the Council of State, which heard arguments from lawyers on both sides on Thursday.
Villeneuve-Loubet, a seaside resort of about 14,000, is between the larger cities of Nice and Cannes, where the first ban was enacted in July. Most of the prohibitions are temporary and run until the end of the holiday season. The restrictions in Villeneuve-Loubet end on Sept. 15.
The ordinances target bathing attire that is not “appropriate,” that is not “respectful of good morals and of secularism,” and that does not respect “hygiene and security rules.”
The wording makes no mention of a specific religion or type of clothing, but it is widely perceived to be aimed at Muslim women who are trying to dress modestly while at the beach.
The mayors of the towns with such prohibitions have argued that burkinis pose a threat to public order after multiple terrorist attacks in France in the past months, including one in Nice on July 14 that killed 86 people.