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Burkini debate reignited by small-town ban

The mayor of Lorette in the Loire has banned the burkini and the veil from a new outdoor pool in the area

The 4000 square metre, two-pool park was inaugurated on June 23. The rules of the park state that “all swimmers must wear a bathing suit in the water – a one or two piece for women, boxers or trunks for men,” without any specific mention of the burkini.

But a board at the site shows that veils covering the head, in addition to alcohol, football and dogs, are banned. Swimmers are warned that if they contravene the rules, they will be removed.

“We don’t want people to wear things that provoke and are aggressive,” said mayor Gérard Tardy. He courted controversy last year by approving signs in Lorette that read “Ramadan should take place in silence”.

“I felt that the people of Lorette want our public bathing area to remain as secular as possible. We also prohibit the monokini (topless swimsuit). Anything now can create a buzz on social media and a storm in a teacup,” Mr Tardy told France Bleu.

Aldo Oumouden, the spokesman for the Grande Mosque in the nearby city of Saint Etienne, said “wanting to ban the veil in this swimming area is an attack on the individual freedom of Muslims.”

Last year around 30 French towns in the southeast coastal area, including Cannes and Nice, banned the burkini. The move ignited a debate about secularism, a key tenet of the French constitution, and drew international attention when pictures emerged of police forcing a burkini-clad woman to remove some items.

France's highest administrative court overturned the ban in Villeneuve-Loubet, calling the ban "a serious and illegal attack on fundamental freedoms".

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