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French city votes to allow Muslim women to swim in burqa-bikini suits

By Ashley Williams
French city votes to allow Muslim women to swim in burqa-bikini suits
The city of Grenoble, in France, this week voted to allow the wearing of burqinis, as pictured, in public pools this summer. Photo by Giorgio Montersino/Flickr

May 17 (UPI) -- Muslim women in Grenoble, France, are now permitted to wear burqini swimsuits at state-run swimming pools, the municipal council decided.

In a 27-2 vote on Monday following a 2.5-hour debate, council members of the southeastern French city opted to allow the swimsuit rule changes -- falling more closely in line with Grenoble Mayor Éric Piolle's goal of adopting more permissive swimming regulations.

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"Our wish is to get rid of absurd restrictions," Piolle said ahead of the vote, France 24 reported. "This includes (allowing) bare breasts and swimming costumes that give extra coverage for sun protection or for beliefs; it is not about taking a position for or against the burqini specifically."

Burqinis, invented by Australian Aheda Zanetti, are whole-body swimsuits mostly worn by Muslim women that combine the look of a burqa and bikini, only allowing for the wearer's face, feet and hands to show.

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The conservative swimwear has previously been a source of tension in France, with burqinis reportedly raising concerns about Islamization in secular France.

Burqini ban enforcement was deemed illegal in France in 2016, with the country's highest administrative court citing a violation of fundamental liberties for the ruling.

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Prior to Grenoble's swimwear rule change, burqini-related tensions were not uncommon in the city, where related protests began to break out in 2018.

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Activists with Alliance Citoyenne, a community grassroots organization, led burqini-clad protests in 2020 and 2021 in support of allowing the swimming garments in Grenoble's swimming pools.

Following Monday's vote, those who oppose the decision including Republican leader Laurent Wauquiez, president of Regional Council of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, spoke out against it.

"By authorizing the wearing of the burkini in municipal swimming pools, Eric Piolle definitively acts his break with secularism and the values of our Republic," Wauquiez tweeted.

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