Sunday

18th Nov 2018

France tries to defuse burkini row

  • Nice authorities said some people might feel that the burkini was "an act of defiance or a provocation" (Photo: reuters)

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has warned against the "stigmatisation" of Muslims and called for a "proportionate" implementation of anti-burkini municipal decrees.

Cazeneuve spoke on Wednesday (24 August) after pictures were shared worldwide of policemen in Nice imposing a fine to a woman on a beach for wearing a scarf and leggings.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The woman was not wearing a burkini, a swimming outfit covering all the body which has been banned in 26 French seaside towns in recent weeks.

The pictures, which suggested she was also forced to undress, prompted outrage.

"How many armed policemen do you need to oblige a woman to undress in public," asked Andrew Stroehlein, European media director for the human right organisation Human Rights Watch.

Tunisian political activist Amira Yahyaoui talked of a "new fascism" and said that the French government was "worse than Trump".

After meeting the head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), Cazeneuve said the French concept of secularism must be implemented, but that care should be taken not to stigmatise or antagonise anyone.

He said the decrees should be "rigorously proportionate [to] stop or prevent breaches of public order".

CFCM president Anouar Kbibech said he was "reassured" by Cazeneuve's word but that he was "deeply moved and concerned" by the current controversies over how Muslims dress.

He said that "Muslims reaffirm all the time their attachment to the values of the republic, to equality between men and women".

Nice was the first town to ban the burkini on beaches on 28 July. The decree was taken two weeks after a man drove a lorry in a crowd and killed 85 people, in an attack that was claimed by the Islamic State militant group.

The attack and earlier ones in France and Europe sparked a new debate about security but also about the integration of Muslims in France.

The debate is likely to grow ahead of the presidential and legislative elections next year, where the far-right National Front is expected to score high.

Nice local authorities said some people could feel that the burkini was "an act of defiance or a provocation exacerbating tensions felt by the population".

'Dangerous drift'

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who said this week he would stand in next year's election, said on Wednesday that the burkini was a "provocation in the service of political Islam".

"If we don't stop it, the risk is that in 10 years, young Muslim women who won't wear the veil or the burkini will be finger-pointed and under daily pressure from people around them," he said.

Earlier this month, prime minister Manuel Valls said he "understood" mayors who banned burkinis because they "look for solutions to avoid breaches to public order".

But the left is divided. While interior minister Cazeneuve did not criticise the Nice policemen, his Socialist Party said what happened in Nice was a "particularly dangerous drift".

The Socialists said that the reasons why the woman was fined "cannot not be compatible with the principles of our law".

Commission: Most Muslims not a threat to Europe

Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are on the rise in Europe, as the EU Commission says political leaders should put societies' fears into perspective and not single out communities as threats.

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

EU action on Hungary and Poland drowns in procedure

EU ministers' discussion on how to address rule of law issues in Poland and Hungary gets stuck on procedural issues, while Viktor Orban's government claims it is a target of the Brussels elite because of its anti-migration stance.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Opinion

On Armistice Day, EU is still best gift we can give our children

While young people fought each other in 1918, young people in 2018 travel to study together under the Erasmus programme. But there is a risk of limiting our commemoration to representing the past through just speeches, museum exhibits and visits.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us