NICE — Mayors in the French riviera were this weekend defiant in enforcing the burkini swimsuit ban on Muslim women despite France’s top administrative court ruling the ban illegal in other beach towns.
After the ruling on Friday, paper notices taped on boards – which had been removed during the week – were put up again warning beachgoers of the ban on “beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation.”
Feiza Ben Mohamed, Federation of Muslims in the South spokesperson, reported two women had been “expelled from the beach because of their veils" on Saturday at around 2pm.
And new footage emerged yesterday of a police boat patrolling the sea, with Nice police approaching the beach telling bathers to get out of the water.
“In this country there are laws and those who refuse to repeat them can leave it and let people live in peace,” Ben Mohamed said on Twitter.
Although few Muslims visited the beach during the day, there were noticeably more visible Muslim families walking along the Promenade des Anglais when the sun was down, with some even risking venturing onto the pebble beach.
One woman who had risked a fine and being ejected from the beach was Viviane, from Grenoble, who was on a road trip along the Côte d’Azur with her sons and 16-year-old daughter Wafa.
“I booked a holiday to Nice to change our common holiday destination of Algeria. We’re on a road trip on the Cote d’Azur, and yesterday we went to Nice beach for the first time in our lives so we had to put out feet in the water. But because of the ban we were worried about the policemen and funny looks,” Viviane told BuzzFeed News.
Sitting on a colourful beach towel and under a large parasol, the mother of three said she had booked the holiday before the ban had come into force, but said even if there had been a ban before she would have still taken her family to visit Nice.
But the family only stayed in Nice for a day before instead heading to Antibes, a resort in between Nice and Cannes, where there is no burkini ban. The beach is also close to Villeneuve-Loubet, where the State Council overturned the ban on the burkini swimsuit.
At Antibes beach, Wafa swam in the sea wearing her hijab, black tunic top and leggings, and played with her brothers. “I don’t understand why the politicians focus their attention on this issue,” she said.
“We are in our rights, we of tolerant with everyone,” Wafa said, adding she was not very optimistic about the future. She said she was used to people looking at her as she wore hijab. “For Muslim women it will be bad for the next two months and then they will forget it and move onto the next polemic.”
When overturning the burkini ban last week, the State Council said the measure was a “serious and clearly illegal violation of fundamental freedoms.” Although the decision only applied to one town, it is expected to force around 30 other coastal towns to withdraw their bans. Amnesty International called the decision "an important line in the sand.”
“These bans do nothing to increase public safety but do a lot to promote public humiliation,” said Amnesty’s Europe director John Dalhuisen. He added it was time the French authorities “stop the pretence” the ban was about protecting women’s rights.
After the ruling, Marwan Muhammad, the executive director of the association Collective contre l’islamophobe en France (CCIF), told BuzzFeed News his group would continue to sue each town that continues to enforce a burkini ban.
“We will sue them in every single case. Until they abide by the law,” he said.