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POLITICS

French Mediterranean resort’s far-right mayor bans burkinis

The far-right mayor of a resort on the Mediterranean coast of France has banned Muslim women from wearing burkinis in any of the town's swimming pools or beaches - despite previous court rulings saying that this is illegal.

French Mediterranean resort's far-right mayor bans burkinis
The mayor of Fréjus has banned Muslim women from wearing burkinis at the resort's swimming pools or beaches (Photo: Fethi Belaid / AFP)

Three days after the southeastern city of Grenoble voted to allow swimmers to wear the full-cover swimsuit, the mayor of Fréjus – a member of Marine Le Pen’s far right Rassemblement National party – announced that he had decided to outlaw it.

“I learned with amazement of the authorisation given by the mayor of Grenoble to authorise the burkini in the swimming pools of its commune,” David Rachline wrote in a press release. 

READ ALSO OPINION: If France is to belong in a multicultural world it must accept its Muslim women

In fact, Grenoble updated its rules for municipal swimming pools to allow all bathers to wear any swimsuit – including burkinis – that protected them from the sun. It also permits women to swim topless if they wish and men to wear swim shorts instead of Speedos.

No-one seems to have had an issue with the swim shorts or the topless rule, but the addition of the ‘burkini’ to the list of accepted swimwear caused a major stir, with many lining up to condemn the move – including France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who ordered the local Préfet to review the decision, and later announced that he had asked for a legal challenge to the new regulations.

READ ALSO French government aims to block ‘burkinis’ in swimming pools

Rachline has pre-empted any decision from the government by acting unilaterally, trotting out the familiar refrain from the right that the decision in Grenoble goes against the “fundamental republican principle of secularism”.

“The express authorisation of the burkini is neither more nor less than an electoral provocation with a communitarian spring, implemented by the radical left,” he said.

“I see a culpable complacency with radical Islamism, for electoral purposes and in defiance of national cohesion.

“In order for things to be clearly stated, I have decided, as mayor of Fréjus, guarantor of public hygiene and safety, to modify the corresponding decrees to explicitly specify the ban on the burkini.”

His ban extends to both the town’s municipal swimming pools and its beaches, and he’s not the first southern mayor to attempt to ban burkinis on beaches.

In 2016, Cannes mayor David Lisnard issued an anti-burkini order on the beaches of his town.

The decision, which had also been taken in municipalities such as Villeneuve-Loubet (Alpes-Maritimes), was overturned after an opinion from the Conseil d’Etat, one of France’s highest legal authorities. 

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POLITICS

Biden to host Macron for a state visit at the White House

President Joe Biden will host his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at the White House on December 1st for the first full-scale state visit of his administration, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday.

Biden to host Macron for a state visit at the White House

The visit will “underscore the deep and enduring relationship between the United States and France, our oldest ally,” Jean-Pierre told reporters at the White House.

State visits, which feature more pomp and ceremony than the frequent bilateral meetings hosted by US presidents for foreign leaders, have not taken place so far during Biden’s presidency, which Jean-Pierre attributed to Covid pandemic restrictions.

Asked why Macron had been chosen for the honor ahead of other US allies, Jean-Pierre said “we deeply value our relationship with France.”

The link between the two countries is “founded on shared democratic values, economic ties, and defense and security cooperation,” she said.

Relations between Paris and Washington hit a major crisis last year when Australia abruptly announced it was ditching a contract to buy conventional French submarines in favor of a US nuclear-powered submarine deal.

The US-Australia deal was part of the newly launched AUKUS security partnership, also including Britain, which Washington sees as part of its strategy to contain China in the Asia-Pacific region.

The French government, however, was furious, accusing Australia of “lying” and recalling its ambassadors both to Canberra and Washington.

However, tensions have since smoothed over, with Macron emerging as a key European partner for Biden in the response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the unprecedented Western effort to help Ukrainian troops.

A source in the French presidency said the visit, culminating with a state dinner, will “underline the deep and enduring relations,” including on “close cooperation in defense and security areas.”

Biden and Macron met most recently at the United Nations General Assembly last week in New York and have also had “multiple conversations” over the last year and a half, Jean-Pierre said.

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