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French justice confirms ban on “burkinis” in Grenoble swimming pools

Following a series of protests from local Muslim women, the city passed a decree in May 2021 authorizing bathers in public swimming pools in Grenoble to use swimsuits.

But later that month, the city’s administrative court overturned the decision – a decision upheld by France’s highest administrative court on Tuesday.

In its judgment, the French Council of State invoked the principles of religious neutrality, concluding that authorizing the “burkini” would undermine “the equal treatment of users, so that the neutrality of the public service is compromised”.

“Contrary to the claimed objective of the city of Grenoble”, the city’s initial decision to authorize the “burkini” aimed “solely to satisfy a request of a religious nature”, specified the court.

He also said that Grenoble’s decision would have allowed some bathers to contravene “health and safety rules”.

Religious neutrality is enshrined in modern French administrative principles, which were reinforced last year by a so-called “separatism law”, passed by Emmanuel Macron’s government.

The legislation, championed by right-wing interior minister Gérald Darmanin, explicitly prohibits acts whose “manifest objective is to give in to sectarian claims with religious aims”.

Muslim women in France often struggle to access public services due to strict limits on manifestations of religious belief – one reason why such bans have been criticized by rights advocates, including the Human Rights Committee. United Nations man.

In 2004, the French government banned “remarkable” religious symbols, including Muslim headscarves, Jewish skull caps and large Christian crosses from French schools. The full veil, known as the niqab, is banned in all French public spaces, including public transport and parks, streets and administrative buildings.

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