Judge: “Did you issue the fine in the water?” – Burkini Ban Suspended By France’s High Court

The decision of some French towns (it is not a decision of France’s national government) to ban head-to-toe Burkini swimsuits is clearly a mistake.  A free society is one in which people can decide for themselves what they want to wear.

The justification offered by the Mayor or Nice that after terrorist attacks by people who say they are Muslims, Islamic dresses causes people fear and should be banned is wrong.  If every wrong-doing resulted in interference in the basic freedom of entirely innocent people, who happen to share a religion or other characteristic with the wrong-doer, none of us would have very much freedom left.

A lot of people in France disagree with the Burkini bans and human rights groups have been challenging these order in court. Today, the matter was listed in the Conseil D’Etat, the highest court in France for human rights cases.

Technically, the bans only apply to swimmers rather than people walking or laying on the beach.  This prompted a judge to sardonically ask “did you issue the fine in the water?”

Lawyers pointed out that the principle of a secular republic may require the religion to be kept out of state schools (as it is in America) but not the beach, which is a public space – although presumably one maintained by the state.

3PM:  The court has overturned the ban.  This is interim relief until a final order is made.  In England that would mean there is a chance for further argument before the final order.  Colleagues with knowledge of French law may be able to assist with information on the process.

* Antony Hook was #2 on the South East European list in 2014, is the English Party's representative on the Federal Executive and produces this sites EU Referendum Roundup.

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  • “A free society is one in which people can decide for themselves what they want to wear”

    Agreed. But you assume that these women are deciding for themselves what they want to wear rather than having that decision made for them by a cultish minority. Many muslim women disagree with you. Many more are too afraid to say. By supporting the minority you curse the majority.

  • John Peters 26th Aug '16 - 4:10pm

    “A free society is one in which people can decide for themselves what they want to wear.”

    So are there any free societies? We limit public nakedness, so we are not a free society.

    Or do you think our sense of public decency is better than another culture (like the French culture) which may have different rules.

  • Stevan Rose 26th Aug '16 - 4:55pm

    Why do we have multiple articles on the same topic? This would have been better as a comment on the earlier article.

  • paul barker 26th Aug '16 - 4:59pm

    @JamesG. Evidence ? Or can you read minds ?

  • Lots of countries as well as regions have different customs and bye-laws. Ultimately what the French do is no more our business than are local bye-laws in Saudi Arabia, Japan, Mexico Argentina or the USA etc. If this was happening in Bournemouth I could see the point of a debate.

  • John Peters 26th Aug '16 - 5:33pm


    That would be my take. I don’t think trying to impose out cultural norms on other cultures is right.

    In this case especially there seemed to be a rush to promote “Muslim” culture over French culture.

  • Paul
    I have taken the trouble to find out rather than make a sweeping assumption. You can take that route too if you like.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Aug '16 - 6:33pm

    Glenn, I was proud to see the anti-burkini ban protest outside the French embassy in London yesterday. Even if people have very little interest in France, it is still important for Muslims in our country to see that we stand against these kinds of laws.

    Of course, internationalism means we don’t only care about what is within our borders, but this is worthy of debate here.

  • jedibeeftrix 26th Aug '16 - 6:33pm

    I take a similar view to Glenn; it is not our business.

    I would not want to see any such ban on religious garb in Britain, mainly because it would go against a central tenet of British society that you should be able to do anything that which is not specifically proscribed by law. It would be a gross imposition to randomly outlaw an item of clothing, and their is no legal justification in UK law for doing so.

    France does not follow that view, in fact they take a rather different one. To quote wiki:
    “Laïcité relies on the division between private life, where adherents believe religion belongs, and the public sphere, in which each individual, adherents believe, should appear as a simple citizen equal to all other citizens, devoid of ethnic, religious or other particularities.”
    I do not agree with that, but who cares; I am not French.

    We do expect people to show their faces in banks and at passport control, and there should be no presumption in law that any group is given an exemption from these provisions.

  • Eddie.
    Good on you if you’re proud. Personally, I find it no more outrageous than modesty laws or having to put alcohol in a paper bag in some US states. I’m not an internationalist.

  • “it is still important for Muslims in our country to see that we stand against these kinds of laws”

    It’s called ‘virtue signalling’ and it happens a lot around here. Used to be called self-righteousness. ie Lots of sound bites about hate-crimes, sexism, racism, ultra-conservatism, human rights and general intolerance but the worst offenders get a free ride because actual knowledge, like say about the spread of Wahhabism, isn’t quite so trendy as ignorance. Not unless its on huff po. Oh but wait it is…

  • Richard Underhill 26th Aug '16 - 8:07pm

    John Peters 26th Aug ’16 – 4:10pm ” We limit public nakedness, so we are not a free society.” Have you told Channel 4?
    A lot of French people were shocked when Bridget Bardot wore a bikini on a French beach. Others were shocked when a nuclear weapons test divided one island into two.

  • John Peters 26th Aug '16 - 8:21pm

    Richard Underhill

    Yes, cultural norms differ.

    Most expect clothing of some form.

  • The Professor 26th Aug '16 - 9:29pm

    Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite

    Some French people in making the order to ban religious clothing seem to have forgotten these words!

    Nice to see the French courts have not forgotten them.

  • Andrea Deagon 27th Aug '16 - 3:19am

    Women are often used symbolically to fight ideological wars, and “oppression” is the trigger here. Wanting to cover your hair and skin does not automatically mean you are oppressed. You could argue that the pervasive sexual harassment and/or body shaming of women in their flesh revealing swimsuits also makes women oppressed. Let women wear what they want, hijab included.

  • In response to JamesG above … yes, maybe some Muslim woman are forced to wear clothes they do not want to wear. This would be abuse, in same way that ANY woman/girl may be abused. I have contact with many Muslim woman, most do not wear the hijab, wear western style swimwear if at the beach …. BUT some choose to wear the hijab, dress more modestly. A woman choosing to dress more modestly when in a public area, no problem to me, and should not be a problem to others. The over reaction ( what whatever reasons) by these French Mayors will only fuel seperation between communities, not good

  • PS I was on the beach in Cannes in June, woman wearing all manner of clothes, bikinis, T-shirts/shorts, one piece swim suits … what they felt comfortably wearing 🙂

  • Jane Ann Liston 27th Aug '16 - 9:20am

    With the increase in skin cancer I’m sure most dermatologists would be delighted if more of us wore burkinis on the beach rather than almost nothing.

  • I feel that fat guys on all Europe’s beaches (and those in the UK, Donald!) in over-tight Speedos should all be forced to wear burkinis 😉

  • “Lawyers pointed out that the principle of a secular republic may require the religion to be kept out of state schools (as it is in America) but not the beach, which is a public space”

    The daft thing about all this – and the reason why the ban was so preposterous in the first place – is that it is literally impossible for an item of swimwear to have anything to do with religion (unless it actually depicts religious symbols, text etc.). I can assure you that the Quran says absolutely nothing about burkinis, speedos (the swimwear of choice for most Muslim men), or indeed any other kind of swimwear. The burkini is a cultural artifact, not a religious one.

    The problem I have with most liberal responses to all this is that, as usual, a lot of people are taking the easy way out of condeming the oppression they can easily see while turning a blind eye to that which they cannot. When a French mayor says “I’m going to ban this because I think it’s Islamic” it’s obviously wrong, and we can all condemn that and celebrate when sense prevails and the ban is overturned. The trouble is, most liberals who then see a burkini-clad woman on a beach will simply assume that she is doing it by choice and pat themselves on the back that they have helped defend her liberty. The reality may be very different.

  • It is not even religious clothing, I heard on the box last night that this outfit is banned in Islamic states. It is just leggings, a long sleeve T-shirt and a swim hat; apparently it is a quite revealing wet T-shirt look, when emerging from the water (so it is said – I haven’t seen myself).

  • @Martin
    This is the reality for women in Iran :-


    Much, much worse than the (thankfully short-lived) French burkini ban, and just as deserving of our attention.

  • Perhaps some ‘Liberals’ here managed to notice the violence on the Corsica beach which was caused by Islamic extremists before there was any ban there and which was based on women wearing burkinis there yet their dominant male relatives still thinking that all others should vacate the beach and then brandishing dangerous weapons (not normally needed on a beach) to try to enforce it.

    As for whether it is a religious symbol, the Aussi designer called it the burkini (presumably from the root burka) and stated it was in designed to be in accordance with Islamic traditions. Now you can argue if the ban is/was legally correct or useful in preventing violence but don’t just invent your own facts!

    There are none so blind as those who will not see!

  • P.A.Mohamed Ameen 31st Aug '16 - 9:57am

    Why are the French lovers of fashion — and well known for a favourable multicultural attitude are dead against the burkini.

    A Sikh professor tweeted a comparison of the banned burkini with the utterly accepted wet-suit..
    “If you agree, we must enact a #BurkiniBan to keep us safe, than you’ll agree that wetsuits definitely #MustBeBanned” Simran Jeet [email protected]
    Human rights activist Ken Roth posted a picture of nuns frolicking in the surf in their habits ( traditional nuns dress) and wondered if they too, would be banned.

    Why do the French hate the Muslim women’s attire? Can not they agree to disagree on the cultural diversity of immigrants?

    Why do the French expect immigrants to abandon cultural symbols of difference? —

    The nuns are white French women so their habits(covering) are OK but burkinis are something to do with Islam and so NOT OK?
    But after all, all religious laws are based on cultures acceptable by the and for the God’s messengers, or prophets such as David, Solomon, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad
    (peace on them)
    No religious culture propagated, amplified and advocated by a God’s messenger allowed women not to cover their breasts or genitals.

    If any culture allows (allowed) that, then God-consciously talking, that culture is (was) outside the receivers of the divine messenger or they changed and nullified the teachings of the God chosen messengers.

    So garments of both men and women are something to do with the Islamic jurisprudence.

    French politicians security argument is completely bogus. This is 100% about electoral politics, an incomprehensible nonsense

    This is taking blaming the victim to new lengths.

    The Paris Mayor initially said he did not mean to ban “the veil, the kippa or the cross.”

    He said that other than the burkini, the only swim garb that might prompt an arrest was an Indian sari, because it could interfere with a life-guard’s rescue efforts!
    Let him go to Varanasi, where he can see hundreds of women bathing, and indeed modestly changing their saris, without any apparent risk of drowning.

    Intelligent people wonder what he would do if someone complained that a topless bathing suit was not reflective of “good morals.”

    P.A.Mohamed Ameen

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