Paris pool bans Muslim woman in 'burqini'

13th August 2009, Comments 2 comments

A Paris swimming pool is refusing entry to young Muslim woman wearing ‘burqini’ swimsuit.

Paris – A Paris swimming pool has refused entry to a young Muslim woman wearing a "burqini," a swimsuit that covers most of the body, officials said Wednesday, adding tensions over Muslim dress in France.

The pool ban came as French lawmakers conduct hearings on whether to ban the burqa after President Nicolas Sarkozy said the head-to-toe veil was "not welcome" in secular France.

Officials in the Paris suburb of Emerainville said they let the woman swim in the pool in July wearing the "burqini," designed for Muslim women who want to swim without revealing their bodies.

But when she returned in August they decided to apply hygiene rules and told her she could not swim if she insisted on wearing the garment, which resembles a wetsuit with built-in hood.

Pool staff "reminded her of the rules that apply in all (public) swimming pools which forbid swimming while clothed," said Daniel Guillaume, an official with the organisation which manages pools in the area.

Le Parisien newspaper said the woman identified only by her first name Carole was a French convert to Islam and that she was determined to go to the courts to challenge the decision.

"Quite simply, this is segregation," the paper quoted her as saying. "I will fight to try to change things. And if I see that the battle is lost, I cannot rule out leaving France."

The newspaper ran a photo of the woman sporting her three-piece "burqini" which she said she purchased in Dubai during a recent holiday.

"I bought it thinking that I could enjoy swimming without having to uncover myself," she said.

Local mayor Alain Kelyor said "all this has nothing to do with Islam," adding that the "burqini" was "not an Islamic swimsuit, that type of suit does not exist in the Koran," the Muslim holy book.

France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority, has set up a special panel of 32 lawmakers to consider whether a law should be enacted to bar Muslim women from wearing the full veil, known as a burqa or niqab.

In an address to parliament in June, Sarkozy said the burqa was not a symbol of religious faith but a sign of women's "subservience" and declared that it was "not welcome" in staunchly secular France.

The country has had a long-running debate on how far it is willing to go to accommodate Islam without undermining the tradition of separating church and state, enshrined in a flagship 1905 law.

In 2004, it passed a law banning headscarves or any other "conspicuous" religious symbols in state schools to defend secularism.

The burqa debate in France has drawn chilling warnings from Al-Qaeda that it was ready to "take revenge for the honour of our daughters and sisters."

Communist MP Andre Gerin, who heads the National Assembly's burqa commission, called the "burqini" ridiculous and said pool administrators were right.

"We can't allow this. This is proof that there is a political agenda behind such dress," Gerin told Le Parisien.

AFP / Expatica

2 Comments To This Article

  • Live and let live. posted:

    on 14th August 2009, 15:00:01 - Reply

    Quoting President Sarkozy from BBC news: "We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity."

    Adult muslim women are not 'prisoners behind netting'. They choose to dress a certain way, to please God, not to show subservience to men. No doubt, there are women forced to dress that way, but that kind fo religious compulsion does not represent Islamic teachings.

    If there is anything imprisoning Muslim women in France, it is the strong stance against what is perceived to put down women. Really, this modesty liberates women from the shackles of trying to look or dress a certain way. I think what imprisoned this French woman is not her "burqini" but rather the fact that she was refused entry to the pool based on the way she looked (unless the hygenic facts are a reality). The pool staff speak for it themselves by allowing her entry in June and refusing it later on. Hygenic concerns should have been present back in June too.

    Instead of being 'deprived of identity', it gives Muslim women an opportunity to express what they stand for and believe in. If anything, it gives them identity. They dare to stand out to please God - I say we leave it at that. There's really no 'political agenda' behind this way of dressing.

    Muslim women go to school, work and socialize with friends and family while being dressed this way, just as any other woman would. I don't think they're being cut-off from social life.
  • Jim Bullock posted:

    on 13th August 2009, 12:01:05 - Reply

    I think it would be useful to remind your readers that French pools generally are obsessed with the idea of enforcing skimpy attire. A normal American (short boxer style) swim suit is, in my experience, never allowed in a French public pool on the pretext that "it is unhygenic," i.e. it is not a skimpy "speedo" type nylon suit. If I can't wear even a normal American male suit, I'm not at all surprised that a full-body female suit such as described in this article would be banned. Although I agree that this is not about Islam, the French do enforce a very (overly) strict French interpretation of what constitutes proper pool attire.