• France's news in English
How the world is reacting to France's burqini bans
Who knew a hooded wetsuit could provoke such strong feelings? Photo: AFP

How the world is reacting to France's burqini bans

The Local · 18 Aug 2016, 15:46

Published: 18 Aug 2016 15:46 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Some foreign politicians took the opportunity to encourage their own country to follow suit in prohibiting the full-body Islamic swim suit, while others condemned the bans as Islamophobic and counter-productive.

French daily L'Express summed up the state of things with the bemused headline: 'Abroad, they don't understand the controversy over wearing a burqini.'

Great Britain

Unlike many of France's European neighbours, the UK has not seriously debated the prospect of banning the burqini; instead, publications have reacted to the ban largely with mockery, with one writer suggesting France was "losing the plot".

The BBC spoke to a range of UK-based Muslim women about the ban, who described it as "ridiculous" and "outrageous", with one of them pointing out that British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson has sported the burqini.

An opinion piece in the left-wing Guardian by Remona Aly mocked the rule, listing 'Five reasons to wear a burqini - and not just to annoy the French'. Aly commented: "Nothing says “losing the plot” to me more than demonizing what is, let’s face it, a wetsuit."

The right-wing daily the Telegraph argued that police, not burqini-wearers, were “the true enemies of freedom” and that the ban suggested women’s choice of clothing was a political statement, in an article titled: French burqini bans are a foolish act of fanaticism.


In Italy, a ban on the burqini has been ruled out by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who told the Corriere della Sera daily that he regarded France's restrictions on Islamic clothing as counter-productive because of the potential backlash it could provoke. He added that he did not think "the French model" had worked.

But that hasn't stopped members of the Italian far-right from coming out in support of the ban. In Lombardy, the burqa and niqab are already forbidden in hospitals and public buildings, and Fabio Rolfi, a member of the regional branch of the right-wing Northern League, has submitted a motion for the swimsuit to be banned in Lombardy's lakes and pools as well, Repubblica reported.

Rolfi referred to the burqini as "a symbol of arrogance and of bullying and violence towards women".

However, Milanese city councilwoman Sumaya Abdel Qader, who wears the hijab, responded to his proposal by suggesting it was time "to stop telling women what they can and can't do".

Photo: AFP


Barcelona's City Hall has ruled out a ban, adding that women had the right to wear whatever they wanted to at the beach. The Catalonia region is home to Spain's largest population of Muslims, though Barcelona's deputy mayor said the full-body Islamic swimsuit was rarely seen on the local beaches.

"Our main concern is that women can dress and swim as they like, that they have the freedom to do so," deputy mayor Gerardo Pisarello told reporters on Wednesday, arguing that equality had been confused with conformity by those French councils that had imposed such a ban.

"We must respect the voice of women and not treat them as if they were children."

According to Spanish daily El Pais, 30 municipalities in Catalan have over the past five years voted to ban the burqa in public facilities and institutions, but  in 2013 the country’s highest court ruled that they did not have the power to restrict religious freedom. In Vitoria, northern Spain, users of public swimming pools were banned from bathing while clothed in 2014, though this ban did not single out the burqini.

El Pais journalist Berna Gonzalez Harbour criticized the justification of the Villeneuve-Loubet mayor of the ban, saying: “If it’s a hygiene problem, maybe he should consider banning bathing suits, goggles and wetsuits.”


In Germany, the burqini is generally accepted, but some local pools have prohibited the garment. The Süddeutsche Zeitung described the bans as "the product of Islamophobia as a reaction to the terrorist attacks”, and said the message the ban sent "not to liberate women and defend secularism but rather 'we do not want you here'."


Story continues below…

Quebec, the Francophone region of Canada, has also got involved the burqini debate, with one MP advocating for an outright ban. Nathalie Roy, from the centre-right party Coalition Avenir Québec, called the swimsuit "a religious symbol of fundamentalism" which "denies equality between men and women", according to Radio Canada International. Roy said she did not believe that any woman really wanted to wear the garment.

However, the international relations minister for the province said that Canada and Quebec's charters of rights and freedoms would make it very difficult for a burqini ban to be put in place.  Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée said that in Canada "a woman has the right to dress as she wishes", adding: "We'll leave that debate to the other side of the ocean."


In Morocco, Jeune Afrique reported that there was "real tension" between fans and opponents of the burqini on the country's beaches, with both burqinis and bikinis worn by many. One woman interviewed by the newspaper said: "I can't stand seeing them on the beach. They scare me."

But a woman named as Sara, who wears the burqini, said "it saddens me that it is interpreted as a form of religious radicalization and that the image of women is reduced to a simple clothing choice. I'm not hurting anyone."

"This year, the burqini has raised controversy in Morocco. Seeing burqinis arouses curiosity and unease among swimmers," the newspaper wrote. The burqini is banned in some private pools, particularly in hotels and water parks in tourist destinations around Marrakech and Casablanca.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Restaurant boss suspected of kidnapping Cannes millionaire
The Nice residence of the president of Cannes' Grand Hotel, Jacqueline Veyrac. Photo: AFP

A restaurant owner 'harbouring a grudge', apparently.

Le Thought du Jour
Vive le pont - The best thing about French public holidays
Photo: AFP

The UK might have guaranteed public holidays, but France has "les ponts".

What's on in France: Top things to do in November
Don't miss the chocolate fashion show in Lyon. Photo: Salon du chocolat

The autumn is in full swing in France, and there's plenty to do.

What Paris 'squalor pit' Gare du Nord will look like in future
All photos: Wilmotte et Assoicés

IN PICTURES: The universally accepted 'squalor pit of Europe' is finally getting a facelift.

Halloween: The ten spookiest spots in Paris
Is there really a ghost on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower? Photo: AFP

Read at your own peril.

Halloween holiday in France: Traffic nightmares and sun!
Photo: AFP

But it's great news for the country's beleaguered tourism industry.

French MPs vote to make Airbnb 'professionals' pay tax
Photo: AFP

Do you make a lot of money through Airbnb in France? You'll have to pay a share to the taxman in future.

France and Britain accused of abandoning Calais minors
Photo: AFP

Scores of young migrants are forced to sleep rough for a second night.

France given wake up call as it bids for Brexit business
The business district 'La Defense' in Paris. Photo: AFP

France clearly has some work to do if it really wants to pinch business from the UK post-Brexit.

Mouth fun? French words you just can't translate literally
Do you know the French word for throat-support? Photo: AFP

Word of warning: Don't translate French literally.

Fifteen of the most bizarre laws in France
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Medieval town in south of France upholds ban on UFOs
Mouth fun? French words you just can't translate literally
How France plans to help its stressed-out police force
Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
How speaking French can really mess up your English
The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
jobs available