French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve is warning that a law banning the full-body “burkini” swimsuit is unconstitutional, ineffective and will only ratchet up tensions between communities.
The Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, ruled on Friday against a decision to ban the burkini by the mayor of the resort town of Villeneuve-Loubet, Reuters reports.
The ruling may set a precedent for the dozens of French towns that have also ordered burkini bans.
The issue has become politically charged at the start of party primaries ahead of next year’s presidential election in France, with several leaders on the right and far-right calling for a law prohibiting the full-body swimming costume worn by some Muslim women.
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy who is making a political comeback and is seeking the ticket of the conservative Les Republicains in primaries set for November, has called for a law allowing mayors to ban the burkini.
But Cazeneuve told La Croix newspaper that such a law is unlikely under the current socialist government.
“The government … refuses to legislate on this because a law would be unconstitutional, ineffective and likely to create antagonism and irreparable tensions,” he said.
“We do not need a new law. Current laws clearly lay out France’s secularism.”
The debate was fueled by footage of police trying to enforce the ban on a woman on a beach in Nice.
The controversy, coupled with several Islamist militant attacks in France since January 2015, has filtered into early campaigning for the presidential election in April 2017, making French cultural identity and security highly-charged issues in the political debates.
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