12 August 2009

Muslim woman banned from wearing a 'burkini' in a French pool

By Peter Allen and Nabila Ramdani
Last updated at 5:25 PM on 12th August 2009

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Angry: Carole, 35, wears her 'burkini' outfit outside the pool which banned it

Worldwide controversy about Islamic dress for women reached new heights today after a young mother was banned for wearing a ‘burkini’ at her local swimming pool.

Carole, 35, a French Muslim convert, was told that the three-part burka-like bodysuit including head covering was ‘inappropriate’.

It follows President Nicolas Sarkozy’s comments that burkas are a ‘sign of subservience’ for women which should be banned.

Carole - who did not want her surname published – was told to stop using a pool at Emerainville, near Paris.

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Burkini: A Muslim swimmer wears a garment like the one that was banned

This was despite the burkini, which was bought in Dubai for around £40 when Carole was on holiday, being similar to the all-in-one swimsuits now worn by champion swimmers.

It consists of leggings, a long sleeved tunic, and head covering.

Carole said: ‘I was told that it would allow me the pleasure of bathing without showing off my body, which is what Islam recommends’.

Carole, who converted from Christianity when she was 17, made a formal complaint to police at nearby Meaux, saying she had been discriminated against.

‘I’d called a number of swimming pools in the area. The manager of the third had a look at the burkini, and originally said there would be no problem, but made it clear that he would not have the final decision.’

After buying a summer season ticket at the Emerainville pool for herself and her children, Carole was initially allowed to enjoy a number of sessions.

But she was then told that she could no longer wear the burkini anymore, officially because it was against ‘hygiene relations’, but, according to Carole, because of ‘political reasons’.

‘For me, it’s segregation,’ she explained. ‘I’m going to continue fighting to have a choice.

‘I understand that the burkini can shock, especially as we’re in France, but what disturbs me is that this is a political issue.

‘I’m going to fight this problem through anti-racism groups, and if no solution is forthcoming I’ll consider leaving the country.’



Yannick Decompois, swimming pools director for the Marne-la-Vallée area, where Emerainville is situated, said: ‘This isn’t anything to do with segregation, but simply a hygiene problem.

‘We also ban people wearing shorts in pools – it’s the same thing.

‘This woman can easily wear her burka at the library. We can’t see any problem there.’

In June Mr Sarkozy risked the wrath of Muslims by backing demands for the burka to be banned.

He declared that the full-body religious gown is a sign of the 'debasement' of women.

‘In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity,’ he said during a speech in Versailles.

The president was supporting a call by dozens of French politicians for the ban.

Many women in other European countries, including Britain, wear Islamic head coverings in public - shopping, going to the gym, and even while driving cars.

France enacted a law in 2004 banning the Islamic headscarf and other conspicuous religious symbols from state schools, sparking fierce debate at home and abroad.

The country has Western Europe's largest Muslim population, an estimated five million. -www.dailymail.com

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