Top French court upholds ban on ‘burkini’ swimsuits in public pools

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PARIS: France’s top administrative court on Tuesday blocked a bid to allow the “burkini” at municipal pools in the city of Grenoble, upholding a government challenge against a move that revived France’s intense debate on Islam.

The all-in-one swimsuit, used by some Muslim women to cover their bodies and hair while swimming, is a controversial issue in France where critics see it as a symbol of ‘creeping Islamisation’. The “very selective exception to the rules to satisfy religious demands… risks affecting the proper functioning of public services and equal treatment of their users” the Council of State ruled Tuesday.

Its judgment backed a lower court ruling in May that was prompted by a challenge by the national government to the council’s decision. Led by Green party mayor Eric Piolle, Grenoble had in May changed its swimming pool rules to allow all types of bathing suits and for women to bathe topless. Previously, only traditional swimming costumes for women and trunks for men were authorised. “All we want is for women and men to be able to dress how they want,” Piolle said at the time.

But the judges disagreed. They ruled Tuesday that “contrary to the objective declared by the city of Grenoble, the change to the pool rules aimed only to authorise the wearing of the ‘burkini'”.

The city council in Grenoble said in a statement Tuesday evening that it took note of the court ruling while regretting that the court had attributed views to the council that it did not hold. The changes it had tried to implement had been about allowing equal access to all users to public services, it argued.–Agencies