The French city of Grenoble will allow burkinis in state-run swimming pools, becoming the second city to change its pool code. In 2019, the northwestern city of Rennes quietly updated its rules to allow burkinis and other types of swimwear.
The burkini, a head-to-toe swimsuit used by Muslim women to cover their bodies and hair while bathing, has become a controversial talking point during the summer season in recent years.
“All we want is for women and men to be able to dress how they want,” Eric Piolle, Grenoble’s mayor, told broadcaster RMC. “Only health and safety rules (should) count.”
The changes allow women to swim either in burkinis or, alternately, bare-breasted. They also allow men to wear long shorts.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin called the change an “unacceptable provocation” that was “contrary to our values,” adding that he had asked for a legal challenge to the new regulations.
The move attracted criticism, with Piolle accused of pandering to a so-called “separatist ideology.” Laurent Wauquiez, president of the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region where Grenoble is located, threatened to cut financial subsidies to the council for breaking away from “secularism and values of the Republic.”
While there is no nationwide ban on the wearing of burkinis, the swimwear has evoked the ire of French far-right lawmakers. They consider wearing it in public places as “submission” to what they call “extreme Islam.”
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