‘Burqini’ pool party near Marseille canceled, organizers cite death threats

Australian model Mecca Laalaa wearing an Islamic swimsuit (or burqini). © Anoek De Groot
The controversial “burqini” pool party planned by a Muslim group in France has been canceled following a strong reaction from the public, local media reported. The organizers said they received death threats and one person even received bullets in the mail.

The party was set for mid-September at the Speed Water Park in the Pennes-Mirabeau commune near Marseille.

The event was organized by Smile 13, which describes itself as a sports and social event group for women and children.

The group said the party was “exclusively for women, girls, and boys under 10,” with female attendees urged to wear burqinis – swimsuits for Muslim women that cover the whole body expect the face, hands and feet – because there will be male guards present.

On Monday, the manager of the aquatic center, together with the mayor of Pennes-Mirabeau, Michel Amiel, met to discuss the event and decided not to give it the green light, France Bleu newspaper reported

Amiel later told France Bleu that he had made the decision to help "calm down the situation."
"The manager of the pool had not considered the sheer emotion that organizing this event could generate," he said. "We saw the reactions on social networks that were completely outrageous, Islamophobic, xenophobic, and racist, which I totally condemn, but given the circumstances, we have to cool things down."

Amiel earlier told Le Parisien newspaper that he was so “shocked and angry” by the “provocation” that he decided to cancel the event. “I’m issuing an order that will ban the event since it is likely to cause public disorder,” he said, adding that the event is “a provocation not needed in the current situation.”

On Saturday, Smile 13 issued a statement on Facebook, saying that group members had received death threats over the planned pool party.

"It's with astonishment and regret that we have noted the extent of this controversy," the group wrote. "The situation has become surreal, from insults, incessant journalist requests, and death threats to members of the team.”

One person had even received a letter containing bullets, the group added.

According to the organization, the event was open and tolerant of everyone, "including women from different backgrounds regardless of their religious and clothing choices."

The party, intended to be “a moment of relaxation,” suddenly became a problem when it was criticized by “so many narrow-minded polemicists and politicians,” Smile 13 added.

A member of the National Assembly, Valerie Boyer, who had earlier expressed outrage over the event, was happy to learn that it was canceled.

“It is a victory of our values. We must never give in,” she tweeted.

“Victory: Burqini day at Speed Water [Park] canceled, bravo,” wrote ‏@DegrimaDaniel on Twitter, while @alumacom1 added: “The Burqini day will not take place. It’s great!"

“The Burqini day has been canceled. The [French] Republic did not give in and it must never give in,” @ mikapilater wrote.