French police have enforced a law in light of recent terrorist attacks. Authorities announced a ban on burkinis, Muslim attire used to cover swimsuits, and have been seen on beaches ordering women to remove the clothing as well as any head coverings.
Police explain that due to recent attacks in Paris and Nice, burkinis have a negative connotation and may even pose a threat in the minds of many residents.
Christian Estrosi, Nice’s deputy mayor, explained in a letter that “hiding the face or wearing a full-body costume to go to the beach is not in keeping with our ideal of social relations.”
The ban on burkinis comes with a ticket and a fine of €38 ($42). For many Muslims who have lived in France for many years, the ban comes as a shock.
A 34-year old mother of two, whose family has lived in France for three generations, was issued a ticket for not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism.”
“I was sitting on a beach with my family,” she explained. “I wasn’t even planning to swim, just to dip my feet.”
When officers asked her to remove her burkini, she initially refused, only to hear shouts from others at the beach to go home.
“The policeman told me I had to wear correct clothing and wear the hijab as a headband. But I left the beach and kept my hijab on,” she said. “I felt like a stranger in my own country. Some people came to comfort me but others insulted me.”
Recent photos show police standing over a woman with batons and pepper spray as she is removing her burkini. Another video shows police officers waiting for two girls to come out of the water before accosting them.
Rachid Nekkaz, an Algerian businessman, said that the law is unfair to Muslims and offered to pay for the fines of those receiving tickets.
“I decided to pay for all the fines of women who wear the burkini in order to guarantee their freedom of wearing these clothes, and most of all, to neutralize the application on the ground of this oppressive and unfair law,” Nekkaz said.
After public backlash to other photos and videos as well as a challenge by a group called Human Rights League, a top French court has agreed to rule on the legality of the beach fines.
In 2011, France banned the public wearing of burqas, full-body attire that covers the face. The law included making it illegal to wear a niqab, a veil for the face with an opening for the eyes. Both are common attire for Muslims.
The ban, which also came with a fine, was appealed but eventually upheld by the European Convention on Human Rights in 2014.