French police ordered a woman to remove her burkini Tuesday as she lay on a beach in Nice as local authorities enforced a ban on swimwear worn by some Muslim women to preserve their modesty.
In a separate incident, another woman was fined for covering up in a Muslim headscarf and leggings on a beach in Cannes.
Some 15 French towns recently banned the burkini, triggering a fierce debate in France and elsewhere about the wearing of the full-body swimsuit, women’s rights and secularity.
At the Promenade des Anglais beach in Nice a middle-aged woman was asleep on the sand when four police officers approached her and ordered her to remove the light blue headscarf and matching burkini she was wearing.
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The incident was caught on camera by a photographer on the beach.
After the woman removed her head covering and top the cops apparently issued her a warning and fine. The fine for wearing a burkini on the beach is reportedly €39 ($43).
The ban has raised questions over what constitutes unacceptable beachwear: the actual trademarked full-body swimsuit — much like a wetsuit but with a head covering — or merely being fully clothed on the seashore.
A mother of two told AFP on Tuesday she had been fined on the beach in the resort of Cannes wearing leggings, a tunic and a headscarf.
Her ticket, seen by AFP, read that she was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism.”
“I was sitting on a beach with my family. I was wearing a classic headscarf. I had no intention of swimming,” said the 34-year-old who gave only her first name, Siam.
A witness to the scene, Mathilde Cousin, confirmed the incident.
“The saddest thing was that people were shouting ‘go home,’ some were applauding the police. Her daughter was crying,” she told AFP.
One of the world’s most secular countries, France strongly separates religion and public life, and overt religious symbols or clothing are considered incompatible with French values.
Islamic dress has long been a subject of debate in France, which was the first European country to ban the Islamic face veil in public in 2010, six years after outlawing the headscarf and other conspicuous religious symbols in state schools.
Ordinary citizens are allowed to wear the headscarf in public.