The mayor of a small town in central France has reignited the burkini debate after banning the full-body swimwear from a new leisure park, despite a high court ruling the bans illegal last year.
Gerard Tardy is the mayor of Lorette, a small town south of Lyon with less than 5,000 inhabitants which on Friday opened the Les Blondières leisure park. Covering an area of nearly 4,000 square meters, it contains large gardens, fishing ponds, two artificial swimming areas, and a beach.
But if visitors want to enjoy Les Blondières, they might need to observe some controversial new rules. Article 4 of the Town Hall’s decree governing the site says that swimmers must “have decent attire and a correct attitude.”
“On the beach monokinis, burkinis, veils that partially or totally conceal the face are banned,” it adds.
A sign outlining the rules has been posted at the park’s entrance.
Tardy’s office also banned dogs, alcohol, and football. Anyone not abiding by the rules will be removed by security or police.
“Wanting to ban the veil in this swimming area is an attack on the individual freedom of Muslims,” Aldo Oumouden, the spokesman for the Grand Mosque in the nearby city of Saint Etienne, said in an interview with France Bleu, as quoted by the Local. “The mayor does not realize that this decision will further increase stigma. It is not only unnecessary but also devastating for community harmony.”
Tardy defended his decision in the local newspaper Le Progres, saying “We do not want aggressive and provocative outfits.”
Last year, a fierce debate raged in France when around 30 seaside towns in the French Riviera banned the burkini, a kind of Islamic swimsuit that allows women to go to the beach while abiding by the modesty required by their religion. In August, the State Council, France’s highest administrative court, overruled the ban, calling it “a serious and illegal attack on fundamental freedoms.” The legal status of Tardy’s order can therefore be called into question.
The mayor courted controversy before when last year he put up electric billboards around Lorette, asking Muslims to celebrate Ramadan “without making any noise.”