The mayor of Cannes has banned the wearing of burkinis — full-body swimsuits — on the beaches of the French Riviera resort famous for its annual film festival, officials said Thursday.
Mayor David Lisnard signed off on the ruling that “access to beaches and for swimming is banned to anyone who does not have (bathing apparel) which respects good customs and secularism,” which is a founding principle of the French republic.
“Beachwear which ostentatiously diplays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order (crowds, scuffles etc) which it is necessary to prevent,” it says.
Thierry Migoule, head of municipal services for the town, sought to clarify the ruling’s intent.
“We are not talking about banning the wearing of religious symbols on the beach … but ostentatious clothing which refers to an allegiance to terrorist movements which are at war with us,” he said.
On July 14 the nearby Riviera city of Nice was the target of an attack claimed by the so-called Islamic State group which killed 85 people, when a truck ploughed into seafront crowds celebrating the French national holiday.
On July 26 a priest was killed in his church in northwestern France by two attackers who had proclaimed their allegiance to Islamic State.
Islamic dress is a hot-button issue in France, where the full-face veil is banned in public places. But there is no ban on wearing religious symbols or clothing.
Migoule said that no burqini had been seen on any beach in Cannes since the ruling was signed into force on July 28 by Lisnard, a member of the centre-right Les Republicains party.
Earlier this week a waterpark in nearby Marseille cancelled plans to host a private event for Muslim women wearing burqinis after they sparked outrage, including from politicians on both the right and left.
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 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.
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