By Hannah Schultz, Executive Editor
Earlier this week, an image of French police forcing a woman to remove her burkini—a full-body swimsuit worn mostly by Muslim women—on a beach in Nice went viral on social media, sparking outrage. Just days later, France’s highest administrative court has ruled that the law be suspended in Villeneuve-Loubet on Aug. 26 until a final decision can be reached — creating a precedent for similar bans around the country.
The burkini ban has been instituted in over 30 French towns and is reportedly in response to growing terror concerns. France has been the location of several terrorist attacks in recent months, including a truck rampage killing more than 80 people and the stabbing of an 86-year-old priest, according to CNN.
However, many believe the burkini ban is merely another example of France’s Islamophobia, which is why it is important for humans rights activists that it be stopped.
“By overturning a discriminatory ban that is fueled by and is fueling prejudice and intolerance, today’s decision has drawn an important line in the sand,” Amnesty International Europe Director John Dalhuisen said in a statement.
One woman who was fined for wearing a burqa on a Cannes beach spoke about how the ban made her feel as if she doesn’t belong in France.
“The insults were like ‘Go home,’ ‘We don’t want you here’ (and) ‘France is a Catholic country,’” the woman told BFM TV. “Those hurtful words were said in front of my kids. My daughter was crying. She did not understand why her mother had to leave the beach. It’s the first time I faced such discrimination.”
Women across the world have joined in solidarity with these Muslim women following the viral image. In London, they made a makeshift beach outside the French embassy to stage their protest.
“I think it’s a frightening image,” Jenny Dawkins, a Church of England priest who joined the protest, said to CNN. “I find it quite chilling to see an image of a woman surrounded by men with guns being told to take her clothes off.”
It is unclear at this time whether or not the burkini ban will be overruled. According to CNN, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said he supports banning burkinis. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who plans to run for re-election, has said he would immediately enact a national ban of the swimsuits.
“These bans do nothing to increase public safety, but do a lot to promote public humiliation,” Dalhuisen said. “Not only are they in themselves discriminatory, but as we have seen, the enforcement of these bans leads to abuses and the degrading treatment of Muslim women and girls.”