Muslim women peacefully protested a ban on burkinis ahead of the European heatwave at the Jean Bron public swimming pool in the city of Grenoble on Sunday. “Operation Burkini” was launched by the group Citizen Alliance of Grenoble last month to “respect” Muslim women’s freedom to wear what they want.
According to news outlet France Bleu, the women were fined £30 each by police officers for breaching regulations.
More than 600 Muslim women signed a petition in 2018 encouraging the Grenoble Mayor Éric Piolle to reform public swimming pool rules to accommodate the full freedom of all women when it comes to choosing what to wear. Currently, French women are required to wear bikinis or swimsuits to any public pool.
Protestor Soumia said:
This is a noble cause, we would like the regulation to be modified to adapt to all women so we have freedom to swim in the burkini whatever the reason may be, modesty or religious convictions. Today we are ready to enter a dialogue with the municipality. But if that doesn’t happen we are ready to protest at another swimming pool this coming Sunday despite the daily threats we receive.”
Far right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen tweeted:
It’s time to say loud and clear that the burkini has no place in France.”
Quand les pouvoirs publics cèdent à tout, ils ouvrent la voie aux revendications communautaristes permanentes.
— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) June 24, 2019
Some French women, in support of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, have announced on social media that they will organize a counter-protest to bathe naked at public pools on Sunday the 31st of July.
According to a town hall statement, the two public swimming pools in Grenoble have now been shut down following requests from the lifeguards because “they are there to maintain safety and they can’t do that when they have to worry about the crowds.”
The protest was inspired by US civil rights activist and pioneer Rosa Parks, who was arrested in Alabama in 1955 when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man.
France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, and there have been numerous occasions where rights groups believe the local laws in France, in fact, promote and encourage Islamophobia.
In 2010 France was the first country in Europe to ban the full-face veil (burqa and niqab) in public. In 2014, The European Court of Human Rights upheld the ban rejecting arguments that full-face veils breached religious freedom.
And in 2016, twenty mayors who banned burkinis along the French Riviera refused to lift the ban regardless of France’s highest administrative court stating that it violates “fundamental freedoms”.
As the women continue to protest, the world looks on to see how France will react in its latest controversy with the freedom to religion and expression.