National burkini ban would be 'unconstitutional' – French interior minister

A woman wearing a burkini walks in the water on a beach in Marseille, France. © Stringer
The French government cannot implement a nationwide anti-Muslim swimsuit ban, as such a law would be "unconstitutional and ineffective," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

A law restricting the traditional Muslim full-body beachwear would be "likely to create antagonism and irreparable tensions" in French society, the official told La Croix newspaper on Sunday.

"France more than ever needs peaceful relations with Muslims," he said. However, "tolerance" is needed on both sides, he added, saying that "Muslims must continue to engage with us on gender equality."

While the socialist government minister has been opposing the burkini ban, other political figures in France have expressed their support towards the Muslim swimwear restrictions.

The former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has promised this week he would impose a nationwide ban on burkinis if re-elected to the presidency.

READ MORE: Photo of French police enforcing burkini ban goes viral, politician threatens legal action

The popularity of the conservative president from 2007 to 2012 has grown, as he officially confirmed he would seek the presidential nomination in the next year elections in France. In the primary race among Republican candidates, Sarkozy has caught up with his main rival as the party candidate, former prime minister Alain Juppe, who led opinion polls for many months.

A poll published by French TNS Sofres on Sunday shows some 34 percent of the center-right party’s supporters would vote for Sarkozy in the first round of the primary in November.

Earlier this week, France's highest administrative court has possibly set a precedent by suspending the burkini ban imposed by the southern town of Villeneuve-Loubet. Calling the ban "clearly illegal," the judgment ruled that the restricting regulation "breached the fundamental freedoms to come and go, the freedom of beliefs and individual freedom."

A number of French Riviera towns where a similar ban has been recently imposed, expressed their discontent over the court decision, saying their restrictions on the Muslim women's swimsuit will remain.