Cannes Burkini Ban Sparks Controversy, Mayor Cites Security Concerns

Burkini swimsuits are being banned in Cannes over public safety concerns. In a public statement, mayor David Lisnard explained the full-cover bathing suits, which are primarily worn by Muslim women, are "a symbol of Islamic extremism."

Oxford Eagle reports burkinis, which cover the entire head and body, with the exception of the face, hands, and feet, were specifically designed for Muslim women. As the swimsuits cover a majority of the body, Muslim women are able to swim while still observing their religious moral codes.

However, the swimsuits became popular among non-Muslim women as well when British celebrity Nigella Lawson was seen sporting her own burkini in Sydney, Australia, in 2014.

According to the official Cannes decree, which was published by the Telegraph, burkinis were deemed to be "swimwear displaying religious affiliation in an ostentatious way." As the country has become a target for terrorist attacks in recent months, Cannes officials believe the swimsuits "could create risks of trouble to public order."

Women who violate the burkini ban will be issued a warning and asked to change out of their swimsuit. However, if they refuse to change their clothing and choose not to leave the public beach, they are facing a $42 fine.

The Collective Against Islamophobia in France contends the Cannes burkini ban is a violation of laws protecting personal rights. As reported by the Star, the organization is in the process of filing a lawsuit to block the ban.

Although the organization acknowledges the recent terrorist attacks in France were devastating, they pointed out that many of the victims were, in fact, Muslim. The Collective also stressed the fact that very few Muslims are actually extremists.

Human Rights League president Hervé Lavisse also expressed disappointment in the burkini ban and suggested his organization is also prepared to file a lawsuit citing "abuse of the law."

Muslims Federation for the South spokeswoman Feiza Ben Mohamed suggests the Cannes Burkini ban "is exactly what ISIS wants."

"... the mayor is doing their work for them. ISIL seeks to make our young people believe that they are excluded, stigmatised and they will use such examples in their recruitment drive."

Despite the possibility of more than one lawsuit and other ongoing criticism, Mayor David Lisnard has strongly defended the Cannes burkini ban. In his opinion, he is "simply banning a uniform that is the symbol of Islamist extremism."

Cannes municipal services director Thierry Migoul echoed Lisnard's opinion about the burkini ban.

"We are not talking about banning the wearing of religious symbols on the beach, but ostentatious clothing which refers to an allegiance to terrorist movements which are at war with us."

Although the Cannes burkini ban is new, France already has laws in place to forbid women from wearing veils that cover the face in public. The same laws ban public school girls from wearing headscarves while attending class.

French officials have defended the laws, which are meant to "preserve secular values and protect women from religious oppression." However, human rights activists argue the laws are discriminatory.

Although Islam is France's second most popular religion, government officials are obviously uncomfortable with the increased terrorist attacks and threats and the terrorists' association with the Muslim religion.

Amid the chaos, Muslim rights organization are attempting to promote tolerance and the fact that Muslim extremists do not represent the religion or its followers as a whole.

It is unclear whether the lawsuits against the Cannes officials will come to fruition or whether they will stop the burkini ban. However, several organizations have expressed plans to move forward with legal action.

[Image via Kzenon/Shutterstock]