Third French town introduces ban on burkinis

TENSIONS BOIL: Women wearing burkinis on a French beach. Picture: Supplied
TENSIONS BOIL: Women wearing burkinis on a French beach. Picture: Supplied

The mayor of a Corsican village – the scene of a huge fight between residents and youths of North African origin, and sparked by burkinis – has banned the full-body swimsuits from its beaches. The ban is the third to be introduced this summer in French towns, with the mayor of the glitzy Riviera resort of Cannes saying he would not allow “a uniform that is the symbol of Islamist extremism” to be worn on the beaches in his town.

Mayor Pierre-Ange Vivoni, of Sisco, a small village in the north of Corsica, said yesterday that burkinis were now also banned. The decision was made at a special council session on Sund a y, following the beach brawl the day before in which five people were injured and several vehicles burnt.

The burkini bans have sparked controversy as tensions have grown between Muslims of North African origin and others in communities in the south of France, in particular after the massacre of 85 people in Nice a month ago by a Tunisian truck driver. Supporters of the bans say the garment – which some Muslim women wear to meet with Islamic requirements to dress modestly in public – collides with French secular principles. But anti-racism campaigners said the banning of the garments amounted to discrimination.

Vivoni said the violence started in Sisco when a tourist took a photo of young women wearing burkinis on a beach. “The Maghrebins [North Africans] did not want to have their photos taken,” he said. “It was quite a trivial matter at first.”

A hundred police officers were sent to break up the big fight, which lasted for several hours. A series of incidents in Corsica have raised tensions in recent months between the Muslims and their neighbours. On Christmas, a mob ransacked a Muslim prayer hall and set fire to copies of the Koran in the Corsican capital, Ajaccio, following an assault on firefighters, blamed on Arab youths. Last month, Corsican politi – cians called on the French state to close down radical mosques on the island, after an underground separatist movement issued a threat against extremists.

A splinter group of the nationalist Corsican National Liberation Front warned Islamists that any attack on the island would trigger a determined response.

Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean seaside town of Juan-les-Pins, 41 people were injured in a stampede when firecrackers sparked a panic on Sunday. Residents and tourists fled from what they feared was an attack, French media reported. Video posts showed people rushing and yelling – and others the injured on stretchers with ambulances at the scene.

Overturned tables could be seen outside cafes in the upmarket resort. Newspaper Le Parisien reported that the firecrackers had been thrown from a passing car. France has been in a state of emergency, since the November Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

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