'French first, Muslim second': Riviera mayor defends burkini ban

© Burkini by MadammeBk Paris

The mayor of a French Riviera town which has recently banned the burkini from its beaches believes the authorities should remind Muslim citizens that above all they are French, and that their religious beliefs come second to this.

Henri Leroy, the mayor of Mandelieu-La Napoule – a Riviera town with a population of 23,000 – was speaking to MailOnline.

“We have had to remind people that they are French first and of Muslim confession second,” he said.

The burkini ban in the town was initially set till August 31, but the mayor has reportedly decided to extend it until the end of September.

Leroy described an incident that took place on one of the town’s beaches after cameras showed a woman dressed “inappropriately” going into the sea.

“There was a risk to public order because two other women were trying to prevent her from doing so. An officer sent to the spot took the woman to a police post nearby to show them the [burkini ban] ruling.”

The woman agreed to the measure, but her husband started complaining that the ban is a violation of Muslim rights.
“That's when he was informed he was French first and Muslim second. He was not at all pleased,” the mayor added.

Meanwhile, a recent Ifop poll carried out for Le Figaro newspaper reported that some 64 percent of French people said they are against the burkini being worn on beaches. 

The poll shows that "the beach isn't seen as a 'separate' public space, but is considered equivalent to the street," Jérôme Fourquet from Ifop told Le Figaro, as cited by the Local.

The poll – which surveyed 1,001 French people and was carried out between August 22 and 24 – didn’t ask respondents about their views on the burkini ban, but rather aimed to learn about French people’s attitude towards wearing a burkini on the beach.

Of those questioned, only 6 percent support wearing a burkini on the beach, while 30 percent said they were indifferent to the ban.

According to the survey, some 73 percent of Catholics were against burkinis on beaches.

Controversial burkini ban brought before French high court

The French Council of State, a supreme court for administrative justice, will on Thursday examine an appeal by the Human Rights League (LDH) against a decision by a Nice court regarding a burkini ban in the local area.

On Monday, a court in the Riviera city rejected an appeal filed by two human rights groups, ruling that the burkini ban in the nearby town of Villeneuve-Loubet was “necessary, appropriate and proportionate.”

The Muslim female swimwear was “liable to offend the religious convictions or [religious] non-convictions of other users of the beach,” and could “be felt as defiance or a provocation exacerbating tensions,” the tribunal concluded in its statement.
The head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), Anouar Kbibech, called an urgent meeting with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Wednesday to discuss the controversial issue. He said Muslims were “concerned over the direction the public debate is taking.”

“We have seen images of police officers forcing a woman on a Nice beach to remove her tunic when she wasn't even wearing a burkini,” he added.

The debate over burkinis on French beaches has become a hot topic in recent weeks, with more than a dozen French cities banning the swimwear.

The first to ban the burkini was Cannes, which was also the first place to start officially fining women dressed in the swimwear while on the beach.

One woman who was fined in Cannes told L’Obs magazine about the hostile attitude of beachgoers who shouted, “We are Catholics here.”

There was anger on social media recently over photos that emerged showing a Muslim woman on a Nice beach surrounded by several police officers telling her to immediately remove her burkini. Users branded the police approach “Nazi” and “humiliating.”