NICE (France) The French resort of Cannes won court backing for its “burkini ban” on Saturday as a judge refused to overturn its decision to forbid Muslim women from wearing the full-body swimsuit.
Local authorities in the Riviera city, home to the famous Cannes film festival, moved to ban burkinis from beaches at the end of July.
Three women backed by the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) challenged the Cannes decision in court on Friday, saying it was illegal and calling for it to be suspended.
A second resort on France’s Riviera coast, Villeneuve-Loubet, announced a ban against burkinis.
The town’s mayor told AFP that he made the decision to bar the burkini worn by some Muslim women because of sanitary reasons.
“I was informed that there was a couple on one of our beaches where the wife was swimming fully dressed,” Lionnel Luca said.
“I considered that unacceptable for hygienic reasons and that in general it was unwelcome.”
The mayor of Cannes said he had signed off on the burkini ban out of “respect for good customs and secularism,” a founding principle of the French republic.
But prohibiting the burkini has caused an uproar with anti-racism organizations and human rights groups vowing to go to court to seek to overturn the “deeply worrying” ban.
In the city of Marseille this week, a waterpark canceled plans to host a private event for women wearing burkinis after the idea sparked an uproar.
The issue comes at a highly sensitive time for relations with Muslims in France after two attacks last month linked to the Daesh terror group.
Mayor Luca referred to the attacks in disputing charges that the burkini ban was discriminatory, saying it was intended “to avoid any disturbance to public order in the region which was hit by attacks.”
On July 14 the nearby Riviera city of Nice was the target of an attack claimed by Daesh which killed 85 people, when an Algerian ploughed a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day.
And on July 26, a priest was killed in his church in northwestern France by two attackers who had proclaimed their allegiance to Daesh.
Islamic dress is a hot-button issue in France, where the full-face veil is banned in public places. But there is no ban on wearing religious symbols or clothing.