SHAFAQNA – UK protesters have gathered outside the French embassy in London to condemn a recent decision by several French cities to ban Islamic swimwear at public beaches.
Campaigners armed with beach accessories held “free to wear what we want” signs outside the embassy on Thursday where a pile of sand was also dumped in protest.
The participants also held signs denouncing Islamophobia in France. Some of the protesters were wearing a burkini, a swimsuit which covers the body and head.
Esmat Jeraj, a campaigner at Citizens UK and one of the protest’s organizers, said the argument that the burkini was a symbol of repression “needs to be turned on its head”. “A lot of women wear it by choice,” she said. “If the burkini enables women to go and sit on the beach and enjoy the sunshine, surely that should be encouraged. It helps ensure these women are no longer on the margins.”
“We’re here to show anger over the burkini ban in France; so many people are shocked by it,” explained Yasmin, a protestor outside the embassy.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous that in 2016 governments have the right to tell people what they can and can’t wear,” she added. “What I think is more shocking is that France is a country that screams “fraternity, liberty and egality”, but none of that is reflected in the burkini ban.”
Another protestor said: “It’s a protest in response to the French police’s violation of the Muslim woman on the beach by forcing her to strip off her burkini surrounded by armed police officers … so I’m here in solidarity for the right of all women to choose whatever we put on our bodies.”
The London demonstration follows a similar rally in Germany, where protesters gathered outside the French embassy in Berlin to voice their dismay with the French ban.
This week armed police were photographed forcing a woman on a French beach to take off her Islamic dress.
The photograph of French police armed with guns, batons and pepper spray standing round as the woman removed a headscarf and matching top has gone viral on social media.
“The French authorities are in good company; the only other people forcing women to change their clothing at gun point are Daesh (ISIL),” a spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain said.
Around 15 French coastal towns have issued burkini bans. French ministers have said the law is in line with the country’s secular laws.
France’s highest administrative court is meeting to consider a complaint against the ban after human rights groups and an anti-Islamophobia association argue that the ban is in breach of French law.