Muslim women in France are getting their own burkini pride day.
A community group near Marseille has booked out a water park exclusively for Muslim women wearing the all-over swimming garment. The organizers, called Smile13, are hosting the event to “encourage women to join in with the community.”
Women interested in attending the so-called burkini day at Speedwater Park on the Sept. 17 are not allowed to turn up in a two-piece swimsuit and “must be covered from the chest to the knees.” While no men are allowed to attend the event, participants can bring boys under the age of 10 to take part. There will be male lifeguards at Speedwater Park.
The burkini day at Speedwater Park has already annoyed some people. Valerie Boyer, mayor of two Marseille districts who has championed persecuted Christians in Iraq (a cause marked by the arabic letter ن), took to Twitter to condemn the event, tweeting: “Sectarian claims in a water park: To say nothing and do nothing, is to become an accomplice!”
The far-right Front National also slammed the event. Echoing Boyer, Stephane Ravier, a mayor of two other Marseille districts, told BBC News:
This Islamist day demonstrates that, outside of the comforting words of Muslim authorities, a certain number of Muslims are deciding among themselves to break away from our Republican model and put themselves outside our society.
France has one the largest Muslim populations among European Union member states (second now only to Germany). In 2004, the government sparked controversy after passing a law that prevented students in state-run schools from displaying any form of religious symbols, including veils, Jewish skullcaps, and crosses. In 2011, France went a step further, banning people from concealing their face, which includes not only the burqa and niqab, but also masks or balaclava.
Boyer, from the center-right group Les Republicains group, described the “veil fight” as the “most visible expression” of fundamentalists marking their territory. “Burqa, chador, abaja, nijab, hijab, doesn’t matter the name, they represent a confinement for a gender, a negation of the person, a prohibition of freedom a prohibition of equality and a prohibition of fraternity,” she said in a statement.