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French court upholds burkini ban in Grenoble’s public pools

France’s highest administrative court on Tuesday upheld a ban on so-called burkinis in Grenoble’s public swimming pools.

In mid-May, the southeastern city’s council narrowly voted for new regulations, scrapping several bathing dress codes and permitting burkinis — the all-in-one swimsuit worn by Muslim women — in the city’s pools.

After the local administrative court then suspended the policy, only a few weeks after its adoption, Grenoble appealed the decision, which led to Tuesday’s verdict from the French court.

The burkini has raised controversy in France for years, especially among right wingers and some feminists who argue it is a symbol of Islam’s unequal treatment of women and say that it is at odds with French laïcité, or state secularism.

In its decision Tuesday, the top French court stated that Grenoble’s planned policy “undermines the equal treatment of users, so that the neutrality of the public service is compromised.”

The court added that the change in policy was only intended to “satisfy a religious demand,” and so it wrongfully “derogated, for a category of users, from the common rule, enacted for reasons of hygiene and safety, of wearing bathing suits close to the body.”

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted that the ruling was “a victory for the law of separatism, for secularism and beyond, for the whole Republic.”

The swimsuit first whipped up a storm in 2016, when several local French mayors tried to ban burkinis on beaches, before the proposals were struck down as discriminatory.

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