A top French court today suspended the controversial burkini ban in a test case brought by a human rights group against a small beach town near Nice. This ruling will likely set a precedent for the many other towns in which mayors ordered similar bans.
The bans were passed in the wake of recent Islamist jihadist terrorist attacks in France under the argument that it “protects public order and rules on secularism.” But critics argue that it is not only an infringement on freedom, but also incites prejudice against Muslim women.
Photos have recently emerged of French police confronting Muslim women on the beach and demanding that they either leave or remove articles of clothing. In Cannes and Nice more than 20 fines have been handed out. Some of these women weren’t even wearing the banned attire; a 34 year old mother was fined $12 USD for wearing leggings, a jacket and a headscarf while sunbathing.
France banned school girls from wearing headscarves in public schools in 2004 and banned women from publicly wearing the full face veil in 2011. A woman who wears a headscarf is not permitted to work in government buildings, and can legally be denied employment in some sectors such as education. Prime Minister Valls has initiated a movement to ban headscarves from universities.
Critics have pointed out that forcing a woman not to wear full body coverings and headscarves is just as oppressive as forcing a woman to wear full body coverings and headscarves, which is currently the law in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Many fear that these beach town bans will fuel Islamic extremist propaganda.