A French court has disputed the wearing of a burkini in a municipal swimming pool, suspending the council’s decision to allow Muslim women to wear a burkini.
The administrative court in the Alpine town of Grenoble blocked the council’s change of rules there, arguing that it “seriously violated the principle of neutrality in public service”.
Home Secretary Gerald Dermanin welcomed the court ruling as “excellent news” in a post on Twitter on Wednesday evening.
The ruling was the latest development in a long-running dispute that has pitted France’s secularist defenders against those who argued that the Burkini embargo constitutes discrimination.
The all-in-one swimsuit, used by some Muslim women to cover their bodies and hair while bathing, is a controversial issue in France where critics see it as a symbol of crimping Islamization.
The governor of the Isare region of southeastern France called on the court to intervene to stop the change, which took effect in June.
The new rule has been championed by Grenoble Mayor Eric Poole, one of the country’s highest-profile green politicians who has led a broad left-wing coalition locally.
The council changed the rules to approve all types of bathing suits, not just traditional swimwear for women and trunks for men. Women could also take a topless bath if they chose.
– Legal Fight –
The judges handed down their verdicts on Wednesday evening after an argument hearing earlier in the day.
In their ruling, they said the change in council rules meant some people could call on the council pool on religious grounds for not respecting the normal dress code.
Under a new law passed by parliament last year to tackle “Islamic separatism”, the government may challenge decisions that it suspects are intended to separate France’s strict secular traditions from the state.
Attempts by several local mayors in the south of France to ban Burkini on a Mediterranean beach in the summer of 2016 triggered the first firestorm around the bathing suite.
The rules, introduced after a series of terrorist attacks in France, were eventually overturned as discriminatory.
Three years later, a group of Grenoble women forced their way into a pool with Burkini, sparking a political conflict.
French sports brand Decathlon found itself at the center of controversy and was forced to pull out of a plan to sell a “sports hijab” in 2019, enabling Muslim women to cover their hair while running.
Burkini has been the subject of controversy since French Muslim women footballers fought for the lifting of a ban on wearing religious symbols during competitive matches.
The French Football Federation currently prohibits players from playing while wearing “arrogant” religious symbols, such as the Muslim hijab or the Jewish keeper.
A women’s group known as “Les Hijabius” launched a legal challenge against the rules in November last year.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)