Europe

'Operation burkini': Muslim women defy French city's ban on swimsuit

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'Operation Burkini' was launched last month in protest of the French city of Grenoble's decision to ban the swimwear.

Muslim women in France have defied their local pool's burkini ban, enjoying a day in the water in swimsuits covering everything except their faces, hands, and feet. 

Local group Citizen Alliance of Grenoble launched "Operation Burkini" last month in protest of the growing numbers of community pools banning the swimsuit. 

When they changed into their burkinis at the Jean Bron swimming pool, lifeguards told them they were not allowed in, but the women still got in, with many other swimmers cheering them on. 

French media later reported police questioned the women after their day at the pool and then fined them $57 each.

Two of the women involved in the protest, Hassiba and Latifa, later told the BBC they believe they should have the same rights to enjoy the pool as other community members.

"We have a dream: to have fun in public swimming pools like all other citizens, to accompany our children whenever they want to have a swim while it is very hot in the summer here in Grenoble," one said,

"We must fight against discriminatory policies and prejudice in France, as we are actually deprived of our civil rights of access to public services and city-owned infrastructures."

The group later took to Facebook to explain the protest, saying they were inspired by African-American activist Rosa Parks to defend their freedom of religion.

"This Sunday afternoon, seven women accompanied by thirty solidarity citizens disobeyed the regulation of the municipal pool Jean Bron in Grenoble," they wrote.

"As the heat wave approaches, they challenge the will of Éric Piolle, mayor of Grenbole, to postpone the opening of public swimming pools to veiled Muslim women."

While many supported their demonstration, they were also met with criticism. 

"Political Islam is moving forward step by step and the cause of women receding," Matthieu Chamussy from France's centre-right party said. 

France banned the niqab, which covers the face completely, in 2010, becoming the first European nation to make it illegal for a woman to wear the covering anywhere outside her home or place of worship. 

Then, in 2016, individual municipal councils around France began banning burkini-style swimwear designed for Muslim women, a move which then-prime minister Manue Valls supported. 

After Grenoble introduced the same ban, the Citizen Alliance presented a petition signed by 620 Muslim women, urging Mayor Éric Piolle to overturn the burkini ban.

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