Burkinis are among the overtly religious outfits banned from some of France’s most popular beaches, amid growing terror concerns.
Cannes, a city on the French Riviera famous for its annual film festival, has banned overtly religious clothing on the beach in the wake of recent terror attacks in France and other western European countries.
Those breaking the temporary ban, which runs from July 28 until August 31, face fines of €38 ($42), said the Cannes mayor’s office. No one has so far been fined.
The mayor implemented the ban in light of recent terror attacks in the country.
“A beach outfit showing in an ostentatious manner a religious affiliation, given that France and religious places are currently the target of terrorist acts, has the nature of creating risks of troubles of public order (mobs, conflicts, etc.) that are necessary to be prevented,” said the new law.
It comes nearly a month after a terror attack in nearby Nice, where a man drove a heavy truck through a Bastille Day crowd on the city’s main beach promenade, killing 84.
Just over a week later, 86-year-old priest Jacques Hamel, 86, was stabbed to death in a separate terror attack on a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in northern France.
Human rights infringement?
Human rights activists are questioning the legality of the ban.
Hervé Lavisse, president of the Cannes-Grasse section of the Human Rights League, told CNN the ban would be counterproductive because “instead of appeasing people, it will inflame tensions.”
Lavisse believes the decree will be deemed illegal by the administrative tribunal in Nice, and noted that because it was a temporary measure, it “resembles a publicity stunt.”
Feiza Ben Mohamed, spokeswoman for France’s Federation of the Muslim South, told CNN that some women on Cannes beaches were continuing to wear burkinis, but they had not been approached by police or fined.
She added that the ban on overtly religious beach outfits didn’t just apply to burkinis. “Veiled women, Jewish kippa and nuns no longer have the right to be on the beach,” said Ben Mohamed in a tweet.
The ban comes as a planned burkini-only day for Muslim women at a water park near Marseille was canceled by city officials, after threats were sent to the event’s organizers.
The private event, organized by the women’s community group Smile 13, sparked outrage among some politicians and French citizens who claimed it was an affront to France’s rigorously enforced secularism.
What are France’s burqa laws?
In April 2011, France became the first European country to ban wearing in public the burqa, a full-body covering that includes a mesh over the face, and the niqab, a full-face veil with an opening for the eyes.
Those breaking the law face fines of 150 euros (about $205) or public service duties.
The law was upheld by the European Convention on Human Rights in 2014, after a 24-year-old woman brought the case to court, claiming it infringed on her religious freedom.
The government also previously banned Muslim headscarves and other “conspicuous” religious symbols in French schools, in February 2004.