Aussie burkini supporter forced off French beach

The burkini, originally designed to allow Muslim women to combine their faith with the ability to participate in sports, has now become a controversial symbol following the terrorist attacks in Nice and the subsequent fight to have it banned.
The burkini, originally designed to allow Muslim women to combine their faith with the ability to participate in sports, has now become a controversial symbol following the terrorist attacks in Nice and the subsequent fight to have it banned. PHOTO: REUTERS

MELBOURNE • An Australian woman was forced off a beach on the French Riviera after beachgoers objected to her wearing a full-body swimsuit, or "burkini".

Ms Zeynab Alshelh travelled from Sydney several weeks ago with her parents to show solidarity with Muslims in France, equipped with Australian-designed burkinis in the French national colours to give away.

Footage from Australia's Channel Seven showed that as she and her mother, clad in blue burkinis, and her father settled down under a beach umbrella, a man threatened to call the police and a blonde woman gave the family a thumbs-down.

"It's upsetting, it's not fair," she told Channel Seven in a programme that aired on Sunday.

"They weren't happy with us being there. They are seeing something that is not there."

A judge in the Mediterranean city of Nice earlier this month declared the prohibition of the full-body swimwear to be illegal there, in the latest setback to attempts to ban burkini-clad women from the beaches of the Riviera.

Nice, where 86 people died in an Islamic State militant attack in July, was one of about 30 towns in the largely right-wing part of the country to ban the burkini on the grounds that it presented a threat to public order.

"I thought the ban was ridiculous. It just doesn't make sense to me, there's no connection at all between the burkini and these terrorist acts," Ms Alshelh said.

The Australian designer of the burkini, predominantly worn by Muslim women, said last month that sales of the garment had increased after three French cities banned it.

"Why would they ban something when I designed a swimsuit that was part of integration with the Australian lifestyle?" the designer, Ms Aheda Zanetti, said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'Aussie burkini supporter forced off French beach'. Print Edition | Subscribe