A top court in France just overturned a controversial burkini ban


One of France's controversial bans on the burkini — a full-body swimsuit, originally designed for Muslim women who cover their hair and body — was suspended Friday morning by a top administrative court.

The Human Rights League and the Collective Against Islamaphobia in France presented arguments for why the mayor's burkini ban in Villeneuve-Loubet is a violation of human rights and religious freedoms. 

The court ultimately ruled the mayor did not have a right to ban the swimwear over security concerns. Authorities are only allowed to restrict individual liberties like dress if it showed a "proven risk" to the public; burkinis did not pose such a risk, the court determined, according to the Guardian.

The ruling will likely set a precedent for the roughly 30 French towns and cities that have instituted the ban. While the decrees do not outright reference burkinis, they ban "beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation," the Guardian reported.

Chris Carlson/AP

Villeneuve-Loubet, the town whose burkini ban was just suspended, is about 10 miles south of Nice — the site of a July 14 terrorist attack that left scores of people dead, and was executed by a man with a Muslim name. A number of burkini bans have been introduced in the wake of the attack, with some officials explicitly linking the burkini to radical Islam.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a long-time proponent of banning Muslim religious garb, described the article of clothing as a "provocation" in support of an extremist version of the faith.

"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," Thierry Migoule, head of municipal services in the southern coastal city Cannes, told Agence France-Presse. Cannes is one of the cities to institute a ban. 

Opponents of the burkini moratorium have described it as Islamophobic  — there are no bans on diving suits or swim caps, which are tantamount to a burkini — and an attempt to police women's clothing. It has sparked an international debate on civil liberties, with many decrying it, including Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

"The burkini did wonders for Muslim women and girls," Aheda Zanetti, the Lebanese-Australian woman who brought the burkini to Australia, told Politico. "It created confidence to get active. Now the French say it's not their values. I don't understand what French values are, then. Is it French values to force someone to wear a bikini?"