13 August 2009

French Muslim woman barred from Paris pool for donning head-to-toe ’burquini’


PARIS - A Muslim woman who tried to go swimming in a head-to-toe "burquini" has been banned from her local pool in the latest tussle between religious practices and secular authority in France.

Officials on Wednesday insisted they banned the woman's use of the Islam-friendly swimsuit because of France's unusually strict hygiene standards in pools - not because of official hostility to wearing overtly Muslim garb.

Under the policy, swimmers are prevented from wearing any street-compatible or baggy clothing, such as Bermuda shorts, in favour of figure-hugging suits.

The woman, a 35-year-old convert to Islam identified only as Carole, complained of religious discrimination after trying to go swimming in her burquini in the Paris suburb of Emerainville.

She was quoted as telling the daily Le Parisien newspaper that she had bought the burquini after deciding "it would allow me the pleasure of bathing without showing too much of myself, as Islam recommends." "For me this is nothing but segregation," she added.

The issue of religious attire is a hot topic in France, where head-to-toe burqas or other full-body coverings worn by Muslim fundamentalists are in official disfavour. French lawmakers recently proposed a ban on the burqa and other voluminous Muslim attire. President Nicolas Sarkozy backs the move, saying such clothing makes women prisoners.

But Daniel Guillaume, a regional official in charge of swimming pools, said Carole's poolside rebuff had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with public health standards. He said swimmers throughout France must wear special clothes to the pool, whereas a burquini could be worn all day long, collecting everything from food spills to sweat along the way.

"These clothes are used in public, so they can contain molecules, viruses, et cetera, which will go in the water and could be transmitted to other bathers," Guillaume said in a telephone interview.

"We reminded this woman that one should not bathe all dressed, just as we would tell someone who is a nudist not to bathe all naked," he said.

Guillaume said France's public health standards require all pool-goers to don appropriate attire - swimsuits for women and tight, swim-specific briefs for men - and caps to cover their hair. Bathers also must shower before entering the water. Guillaume said Carole had tried to file a complaint at a local police station, but her request was turned down as groundless.

Carole told the daily Le Parisien she would protest with the help of anti-discrimination groups. The Associated Press could not reach the woman for comment Wednesday.


  1. Salam,
    This has happened even in the United States, but they said it was a "safety" hazard in the pool. It happened before to Yasmine at Journey Eastward to Tartary. Shame...

  2. The whole point of the suit is that it is a swimsuit, but covers more. Its obviously not meant to be worn all day as regular outfit. Its a diving suit with a skirt and neck coverage. Just doesn't make sense.

  3. On news (I'm French), they said such as in the article that it is not higenic for the swimming pool because the burkini can hid wounds which will be infect the swimming pool water and they said also that it is anti-laïc and against the constitutional principles of France (like the niquab). They insist a lot of this last one and not only the first one like the article.

  4. Asalaamu alaikum,

    Excuse my "french", but that is the most stupidest crap I have ever heard. My Mother told me about this, and I was sickened. I am so tired of France and their treatment of Muslim women. They try to hard to oppress us in any small way. It's just like the tight suits worn swimming in when surfing, except the Burkini is less tighter. Sarkozy is only agreeing because he is already against the hijab, what a dumb, prejudiced brute. If I were that sister, I would insist they show me those written regulations.

  5. Wa aleykoum salam,

    As I know (maybe I'm wrong) but there isn't written regulation except from hijab, kipa, etc. at school (law 2004). I think because of separation between State and church since 1905 in France, French people are not so "religious" (sorry I dont know how to say that) than in US or Canada thus many people are without religions. So, I think, they don't understand why religion is so important to pratiquant people either muslim, jew or whatever.
    Thus, it is difficult to a sister to go to work with hijab or with something that cover their head. People are not ready, or too far to religion. (and I know that!)
    Concerning swimming-pool, every ones I were it was not allowed to men to wear long swimsuit to burkini for women.... However some swimming pools have specific hours for women only.

  6. As-Salamu Alaikum. (Sorry if I messed that up.) I just discovered your site via Google search. I'm not a Muslim, but I just want to say how disgusted I am with the sort of behavior that appears to be rampant in France, in Europe, and even in the United States. In my ( American) opinion, everyone should be allowed to participate in society fully and equally regardless of faith. I don't care if you want to wear a bikini or a burqua or a Halloween mask and cape for that matter; if it's clean, covers what ought to be covered (outside of a nude beach), and doesn't hurt anyone, why on earth shouldn't you wear it? Wounds can be hidden under ordinary swimsuits and people can wear them all day under their clothes. These excuses are hooey. I guarantee you if I walked in there wearing a burquini because I'm extremely sensitive to the sun and have big scars on my arms and legs from an inherited medical condition, it'd take less than 5 minutes to get them to let me in that pool. Religious exemptions and medical exemptions should be on the same level; if you believe God wants you to do it, and it hurts no one, that's your right. I'm really sorry about this, and I hope this kind of mindless insensitivity (and sometimes bigotry) surrounding you all's religion and personal choices soon becomes a thing of the past. May God bless you, no matter what name you call him.

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