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Ban on Burkini Lifted But French Muslims Continue To Face Regulations on Religious Expression


By Nadim Sohail

[dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]ew weeks after the deadly terrorist attack in South of France that killed 86 people, a group of politicians started a controversy that became an intense national debate on the rights of Muslim to wear the famous burkini. Smile 13, a Muslim non-profit organization from Marseille were organizing a special day in a water park, reserved only for women. The flyers mentioned that women should wear ‘modest’ clothing in the likes of burkini, which is nothing more that a swimwear that covers the full body with a hood for the hair.

Few days later, sensing the opportunity to show a response to the attack, the mayor of Cannes, a city 30 km away from Nice, decided to ban the burkini on the beaches of his city. About thirty other cities followed him and used these terms in their local decree:

“Of all the common beach areas, access to swimming is prohibited from June 15th to September 15th to anyone that does not have a way to dress, that is respectful of decency, the principle of secularism and compliant with hygiene and safety rules. Wearing clothes, while swimming, having a connotation contrary to the above mentioned principles, is strictly prohibited on the beaches of the municipality.”

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The Collective against Islamophobia (CCIF) and the Human Rights League, two very active civil rights organizations, took this affair to court.

Surprisingly, the judges agreed to uphold the ban by this argument:

“In the context of the state of emergency and recent Islamist attacks in particular in Nice a month ago, wearing a distinctive dress, other than a usual swimwear, can indeed be interpreted as more than a sign of religiosity.”

Yes, you read it right, the judges made an implicit link between the wear of distinctive religious dress and terrorism.

After an appeal, the case went to the Supreme Court, known as the “Conseil d’Etat” who gave his final decision on August 26 and overturned the ban:

“The contested decree is a serious infringement on fundamental freedoms that are the freedom of movement, the freedom of belief and personal freedom.”

It seemed at first that this decision would finally put an end to an endless debate that shook the country for many weeks.

However, far from accepting the rule of the law, some politicians have decided to strike back.

Few hours after the decision was made public, the prime minister, Manual Valls, insisted on his Facebook page that wearing a burkini is considered as political act:

“Condemning the Burkini is not in any way undermining an individual freedom. There is no freedom that traps women! (I am) condemning an Islamism that is deadly and retrograde.”

The mayors who banned the fully covered swim wear are also ignoring the decision from the Supreme Court which was made only against a specific city. The decision mentioned that no proofs were given to show that wearing the burkini was causing public disturbances. Guess what? It has been reported that Muslim women were being harassed in Marseille and Nice, causing… public disturbances.

Time and time again, France is criticized around the world about their double standards when applying their national motto: liberty, equality, fraternity when it comes to Muslims. The ministry of Foreign affairs even laughably tried to dispelled some ‘myths’ about how they treat Muslims, in vain.


Far from the spirit of the law of 1905 that defined the concept of laicite (secularism) where the Church was separated from the State, each government from the last 15 years has spared no efforts to try to control the rise of Muslims and push their own version of Islam where Muslims should be invisible in public.

The national controversies stirred by some populist politicians, the stigma against Islam entertained by some medias, and the recent terrorist attacks have provided all the ingredients to convince a large part of the population that Islam is not compatible with the Republic. As a result, as we can read from a recent report from the CCIF after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Islamophobia has never been so strong in France:

“attacks against Mosques, death threats against veiled women, school kids humiliated by their teachers, female students prohibited from wearing long skirts, religious profiling of Muslim children, propagation of hate speeches and even declarations of war on Muslims whom are portrayed as a fifth column… “

Unfortunately, the situation is not getting any better. With the presidential elections approaching, the race to beat the extreme right party ‘Front National’ has started. The mainstream parties are now trying to catch-up with the fierce anti-Muslim rhetoric that has helped Marine Le Pen’s party take the lead in the polls.  

Attacking Muslims has now become one the favorite strategy to win votes and get sympathy across the entire political spectrum. The former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is seeking a second term, recently proclaimed:

“It is not with all the religions that the Republic has difficulty today, but one of them”.

“We don’t want any women with headscarves in France”.


Painting of French woman in a headscarf

For many years, irresponsible politicians have played a big role in demonizing Muslims in the French society by playing with people’s fears and a lost sense of identity. But let’s hope they soon realize that this strategy is only going to raise tensions, disunite the country and destroy the foundations of the ‘vivre ensemble’ (live together) that made this country the torch bearer of Human Rights it aspires to be.


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  1. see you soon

    September 1, 2016 at 1:27 PM

    Tyranny naturally arises out of democracy.

    Democracy passes into despotism.

    two quotes from the founding fathers..or so called anyway……

    secularism is really the real disease of the current phase in his-story…….

    keep smiling…gotta go coz secs left…..

  2. LOrd have mercy

    September 2, 2016 at 2:47 PM

    prepare for the 400+…Allah knows best

  3. ANgles too

    September 2, 2016 at 3:13 PM

    I LOVE WOMEN….perfume too

    may Allah continue to bless the civilised third world…….and put truth and justice back on the map…….

    qadimoon…….even if you are on the moon……..bust or not it will be soon…….

    oh muslimoon…….remain sabiroon…and pray not to be amongst the doomed……

    anarchy / holocaust / or even a landslide coming soon…….so please leave before the sun comes too…….99+1

    good luck and…..

  4. From Bism-Allah to al-Nas

    September 3, 2016 at 5:12 AM

    loud and proud…as to wearing it on our shoulders……al-Hamdullah….we are M.U.S.L.I.Ms……..may cause more hatred but also more awareness……main thing is…the Quran that is what and where the whole game is…… truly strikes fear into satan and his little minions…….

    so may it eat his little heart up in anger and anguish and bring guidance and love to who really need it…….

    In the name of the Lord of creation…….
    Whenﭲcomesﭳ(the) Helpﭴ(of) Allahﭵand the Victoryﭶ
    When the victory of Allah has come and the conquest,
    And you seeﭸthe peopleﭹenteringﭺintoﭻ(the) religionﭼ(of) Allahﭽ(in) multitudesﭾ
    And you see the people entering into the religion of Allah in multitudes,
    ﭿThen glorifyﮀwith (the) praisesﮁ(of) your Lordﮂand ask His forgivenessﮃﮄIndeed, HeﮅisﮆOft-Returningﮇ
    Then exalt [Him] with praise of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever Accepting of repentance

    verily Allah is the Truthful

  5. hakeem

    September 3, 2016 at 7:03 PM

    surely! Allah is with the believers.

  6. abdulhaq

    September 10, 2016 at 6:33 AM

    laïcité, hypocrisé, adulteré

    I know its not real french but somehow more authentic

  7. Claire

    September 11, 2016 at 6:24 AM

    Wasn’t France on the front lines of a fierce battle against another regime that famously rose to power primarily by demonizing a particular religious community? Not so very long ago, either.

  8. Mustafa Siddiqui

    September 18, 2016 at 9:36 AM

    We can appeal to concepts such as “fairness” and “sense of humanity”, but the reality is that an order that is not built upon the divine revelation will find itself squarely against any way of life that posits that life should be done the way God wants. Words such as “democracy”, “fellow citizens”, “shared values”, “free speech”, “tolerance” apply only selectively, and that has always been the case with these orders.

    Taking Quraysh as an example, they had commonly accepted values such as supporting your tribe, granting protection to individuals, allowing others to make pilgrimage to the House in Makkah, even freedom to choose your religion without persecution, but when Islam entered the picture, these concepts were abandoned. Why? Because Islam was calling for something that is incompatible with what the privileged class had in mind. Banu Hashim was boycotted to the point of starvation and death. If someone offered protection to a Muslim, they would honor that as long as it wasn’t a Muslim offering it. Rejecting worship of the idols was not going to get you in trouble, but if you professed Islam, you were beaten and whipped on the hot sands of the desert.

    Today, any other country would normally think twice about daring to harm or even detain a US citizen, but if you are Aya Hijazi, your government won’t lift a finger or say a word to protect you from another government. Free speech is fine, but if you protest by not standing for the anthem, you get accused of being Muslim (implying that only a Muslim will not break out of formation). Nuns can wear their habit at the beach, but if you look like you might be a Muslim, you have to take off your head cover. Things are liberal, but only to a point. If a republic declares that there is no official “state religion”, it still does have an official religion, the “religion of state”. In this religion, your way of life is decided by the state, your loyalty is to the state, you believe in it and love and hate for its sake. This “religion of state” has its own cadre of lords, soothsayers, shamans, seers, oracles, etc. (but definitely not prophets!), and anything that interferes with its supremacy has to be handled, even if by force, even if it means breaking time-honored conventions. “Uniting” the country is only possible if if there is one religion in charge. Aside from Islam, organized religion has no intent to have authority in the land, so Laïcité actually works because there is no worthy opponent to the state religion here. Islam is a different breed, though, and does not muddle words in aiming to making God’s word the highest, so different strokes apply to different folks. Taken in context, it’s no longer surprising and actually makes sense that Sarkozy would say “It is not with all the religions that the Republic has difficulty today, but one of them”, and we all know what that “one” is.

    Our logical appeals have value, as they can and do change hearts and minds. At the same time, let’s remember that today’s wolf might look a little different from yesterday’s, but he’s still a wolf. And the he simply won’t let the flock slip out of his hands if he can help it. He doesn’t deserved to be begged for clemency or kindness. Do not show him weakness or your back side. Stand tall, look him in the eye and show him you know exactly what he is, and he’ll know exactly what you are. He is sly, he is cunning, but he is not brave.

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