The United Nations has welcomed the decision of the Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, in overturning a French town’s ban on burkini.
The Council of State, in its ruling, found that the burkini ban by the French town of Villeneuve-Loubet violated religious freedom and freedom of movement. France’s highest administrative court also found that public officials who enacted the ban had failed to prove that the burkini posed a threat to the public.
While the Villeneuve-Loubet’s ban does not specifically ban burkini, as it bans inappropriate beachwear only, this has been commonly interpreted as targeting the burkini – a swimwear worn by Muslim women.
Villeneuve-Loubet is not the only French town that bans “inappropriate” clothing. Over 30 other towns, mostly located on the French Riviera, have similar bans in place.
“We fully understand – and share – the grief and anger generated by the terrorist attacks carried out in France in recent months, including the atrocious 14 July attack in Nice,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva.
Bans, like the one carried out in Villeneuve-Loubet, Colville said “do not improve the security situation but rather fuel religious intolerance and the stigmatization of Muslims in France, especially women.”
The spokesperson for OHCHR further called authorities in all the other French seaside towns that have adopted similar bans to repeal the burkini bans immediately.
“We call on the authorities in all the other French sea-side towns and resorts that have adopted similar bans to take note of the Conseil d’Etat’s ruling that the ban constitutes a grave and illegal breach of fundamental freedoms,” the spokesperson for OHCHR said.
Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, reported that 80% of anti-Muslim acts were carried out against Muslim women.
In the article called “France’s Burkini Bans Put Muslim Women in Danger” published by Time, Jayne Huckerby, clinical professor of law and the director of the International Human Rights Clinic at the Duke University School of Law, wrote, “Women wearing hijab or other visible clothing associated with Islam are particularly singled out for harassment and violence, often by men and increasingly in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Europe.”
“Against this backdrop of targeting of women in religious garb, any policy that links the burkini with terrorism puts Muslim women further in the crosshairs of Islamophobic violence,” Huckerby added.
On her website, France’s Health Minister Marisol Touraine wrote that to pretend that swimming veiled is threatening public order and values is to forget that secularism is not the rejection of religion, but rather, it is a guarantee of individual and collective freedom.
In fact, the solution to out-root extremism that has smeared global peace and security, would be to counter the problem culturally. We must educate people by teaching that to suppress and carry out any evil act under the name of religion to limit freedoms is unacceptable but also to use secularism as a tool to restrict individual rights will not solve the original problem.