France’s top administrative court overturns burkini ban

France’s top administrative court overturns burkini ban

PARIS — After a month of intense national scandal and heightened international outrage, France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’État, on Friday overturned the so-called burkini bans in 26 of the country’s coastal towns and cities.

Imposed in the name of secularism, perhaps France’s most sacred ideal, the bans had prohibited Muslim women from wearing the “burkini” — a full-body bathing suit designed to respect traditional codes of modesty — on the beach.

Some of the burkini’s critics had attempted to cast this particular Australian-born garment as yet another burqa, the full-face veil that, in 2010, France became the first European country to ban outright. This followed an earlier 2004 law that prohibited religious wear such as headscarves in public schools.

The argument behind both was — and remains — that Muslim modesty somehow impedes the rights of women in the historic French Republic of liberty, equality and fraternity.

This is why, for instance, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed his opposition to the bathing suit in nothing less than the language of human rights: the burkini, he said, was a means of “enslavement.” By the logic of Valls and others, it is the duty of the French state to emancipate Muslim women from the clutches of their religion but also from themselves.

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