France’s highest administrative court will decide Friday whether to overturn the ban on wearing the full-body burkini swimsuit which has sparked controversy at home and abroad.
France's highest administrative court will decide Friday whether to overturn the ban on wearing the full-body burkini swimsuit which has sparked controversy at home and abroad.
The State Council heard arguments Thursday from the Human Rights League and an anti-Islamophobia group who are seeking to reverse a decision by the southern town of Villeneuve-Loubet to ban the Islamic swimsuit.
The ruling, due at 3:00 pm (1300 GMT), is likely to set a precedent for around 30 French towns which have banned the burkini, mostly along the sun-drenched southeast coast.
A court in the Riviera resort of Nice upheld the ban this week.
The burkini bans have triggered a fierce debate about the wearing of the full-body swimsuit, women's rights and the French state's strictly-guarded secularism.
President Francois Hollande said Thursday that life in France "supposes that everyone sticks to the rules and that there is neither provocation nor stigmatization".
Anger over the issue was further inflamed this week when photographs in the British media showed police forcing a woman to remove headscarf on a Nice beach.
The office of Nice's mayor denied that the woman had been forced to remove clothing, claiming she was showing police the swimsuit she was wearing under her top, over a pair of leggings, when the picture was taken.
The police fined her and she left the beach, the officials added.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Thursday condemned any "stigmatization" of Muslims, but maintained that the burkini was "a political sign of religious proselytizing".
"We are not at war with Islam... the French republic is welcoming (to Muslims), we are protecting them against discrimination," he told BFMTV.
But in a sign of the divisions within the Socialist government on the issue, Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the "proliferation" of burkini bans "was not a welcome development".