Photo: Mecca Laa Laa wears a 'Burkini' on her first surf lifesaving patrol at North Cronulla Beach in Sydney, Australia / Getty Images A top French court on Friday overturned a controversial, temporary ban on the "burkini," a swimsuit that covers most of the body.
The Council of State's ruling applies to one town -- Villeneuve-Loubet -- but the decision is expected to set a legal precedent for several other seaside towns that have issued similar bans, CNN reported.
Human rights groups and other argued the French government telling Muslim women what they can't wear is just as bad as governments in the Middle East telling women what they must wear.
France's debate over Islamic clothing has been ongoing for decades, but in 2004, France officially banned hijabs from public schools, as well as other religious articles like Christian crosses and Jewish kippahs, reports The Independent. This decision was in line with their national concept of laïcité, the principle of keeping religion out of public affairs and fostering a post-religious society.
In 2011, the country officially banned wearing full face coverings in public, which includes burqas and niqabs. Many Muslim women saw this move as a violation of their religious rights and some even brought lawsuits against the French government.
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This summer, the contention between French secularism and Islamic clothing made its way to the beach. Three French towns, Cannes, Villeneuve-Loubet and Sisco, banned the full-coverage burkini from being worn in public. The ban in Sisco, on the island of Corsica, was put into effect after a beach brawl was allegedly prompted by people taking photos of women swimming in burkinis, reports The Los Angeles Time.
According to the mayor of Cannes, the reason for the burkini ban was the same as the national burqa ban; burkinis don't respect "good morals and secularism," he told the Associated Press. But Muslim women see it quite differently.
"Here in France we have a principal of secularism... but this law only talks about Muslim women," Feiza Ben Mohamed, spokeswoman for the Southern Federation of Muslims, told The Local. "The mayor (of Cannes) talks about protecting public order, which means he thinks the presence of a Muslim woman on a beach will cause trouble," she said.
"He also invokes the fight against terrorism so he is basically saying a Muslim woman who wears a burkini is a terrorist. Yet again it's ordinary Muslims who pay for the actions of terrorists even though they had nothing to do with it," Ben Mohamed added.
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