Three more towns in France to join burkini ban

Tunisian women, one (left) wearing a "burkini", walk in the water on Aug 16, 2016, at a beach in Tunisia. PHOTO: AFP

NARBONNE, France (AFP) - Three more resorts in France were poised Tuesday (Aug 17) to join a widening ban on the burkini, the full-body Islamic swimming garment that has sparked concern about religious extremism.

In the south-west, the mayor of the resort town of Leucate, Michel Py, was to sign a municipal decree later on Tuesday that would ban the burkini on public beaches, the town hall said.

The decree, running until Aug 31, will bar access to public beaches to "any person who is not properly dressed, respectful of moral behaviour and secularism, hygiene and bathing safety."

"The wearing of bathing clothes which are associated with these principles is also forbidden," according to the decree, seen by AFP.

Leucate is located on the Mediterranean coast, 35km from Perpignan.

In the northern French department of Pas-de-Calais, the mayor of the Channel town of Oye-Plage said on Tuesday he would also move to ban the burkini after seeing a woman wearing "a complete cape and gloves, covering her face and her eyes" as she headed to the beach on Sunday.

In the nearby upmarket resort of Le Touquet, local mayor and MP Daniel Fasquelle said he would also implement a burkini ban in the coming days "to fight against religious proselytising."

"There are no burkinis in Le Touquet at the moment, but I don't want the town hall to be caught offguard if we are affected by this phenomenon," Fasquelle told AFP.

France has been hit by a string of militant attacks over the last 19 months that have left the country on edge and fretting over home-grown religious extremism.

Partly as a result, the burkini has become embroiled in a fierce debate about perceived religious symbols and their place in a strongly secular country.

On July 14, Nice was the target of an attack claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group when a Tunisian ploughed a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 85.

And on July 26, a priest was killed in his church in northwestern France by two attackers who had proclaimed their allegiance to IS.

The following day, the Cote d'Azur city of Cannes banned the burkini and the nearby resort of Villeneuve-Loubet followed suit in early August.

The Corsican town of Sisco on Sunday became the third on the list after a brawl in a cove between locals and families and of North African origin left five people injured.

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