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French City Shuts Down Swimming Pools Over Burkini Row

Two swimming pools in the French city of Grenoble have been closed after Muslim women defied the burkini ban, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported Wednesday.

On Sunday, a group of Muslim and non-Muslim women defied a burkini ban at their local swimming pool in the southeastern city of Grenoble, bathing in suits covering their entire bodies.

The lifeguards at the pools asked for the shutdown because “they are there to maintain safety and they can’t do that when they have to worry about the crowds,” generated by the controversial swimsuits, the town hall said in a statement.

“We are working towards a positive solution” to the problem, it added.

The row is the latest in France over the face- and body-covering garments worn by Muslim women in a country with strict laws on secularism.

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There is no national law against the burkini but in 2016, a series of towns banned the garment from beaches, in Cannes, Corsica, and Le Touquet, on the grounds that it was an ostentatious religious symbol at odds with French secularism.

The decision was criticized by many commentators who see burkini as something that grants so many women access to sports and experiences they would have otherwise avoided because of health, body or religious concerns.

Anger has maximized after a series of photos showed four police officers armed with handguns, batons and pepper spray standing around the woman who was lying on the beach wearing a blue headscarf and matching the top.

In October 2018, the mayor of Rennes city, Brittany in northwestern France, allowed women wearing the outfit in council pools.