Dozens of women protested on a makeshift beach outside the French embassy in London today after the furore over the country’s controversial clothing laws.
Around a thin patch of sand on the ground outside the ambassadorial entrance in Knightsbridge, under the gaze of armed guards, women in burkinis and bikinis carried inflatables and signs of protest.
The protesters ignored a spell of British rain to vent their anger after the scenes in Nice where a Muslim mum named Siam was forced by armed police to remove her traditional dress under new anti-terror laws.
In their sunhats and hijabs, the protesters are calling on French officials to repeal their controversial burkini ban.
Somaiia Khan, a 27-year-old Muslim mum, who protested with her daughter, Nada, six, got “very angry” when she saw shocking pictures of heavily armed French police confronting the bather in Nice.
She said: “I think no woman should be told what she can and cannot wear.”
Dressed in a headscarf alongside her young daughter in a sunhat, said her message to the French authorities was: “Don’t be so racist against Muslims.”
Referring to the incident in Nice, she added: “Her clothes were okay and they weren’t even the proper hijab that Muslims wear.”
Protesters from all backgrounds passed around a beach ball to explain the reason they were making the stand outside the Embassy.
Nabila, a Muslim mum, said: “It’s not a matter for the police, authorities or government to dictate.”
Speaking of the blue burkini she wore to the event, she said: “I’ve been wearing this for 10 years and nobody has ever made a fuss.”
Demo organiser, Fariah Syed, herself wearing a pink hijab, was happy women turned up in their burkinis.
She said: “We’re here to send a message to France that women should be allowed to wear what they want, when they want.
“I hope they can repeal this ban.
“The French said it would end oppression, but the ban itself is oppressive.
“Our main aim today was to show solidarity with Muslim women across the world and I feel like we’ve done that.”
The protest was planned on Facebook with just 24 hours notice and saw dozens turn up in support.
“I’m quite firm on this. I don’t think anyone should tell women what they can and can’t wear. Full stop. It’s as simple as that,” he told the Evening Standard.
“I don’t think it’s right. I’m not saying we’re perfect yet, but one of the joys of London is that we don’t simply tolerate difference, we respect it, we embrace it, and we celebrate it.”
France’s controversial burkini ban could be scrapped today as the country’s supreme court prepares to rule whether it breaches human rights.
Feminist groups have said women are being subjected to ‘racist and sexist acts of humiliation’.
Even the radical group Femen, which regularly storms cathedrals so as to mock worshippers and clergy, said persecuting burkini wearers meant ‘we are no better than a dictator’.
Mum ordered to remove headscarf by burkini ban police officers says she’s ‘horrified by what happened’
Such views will today be considered by the Council of State in Paris, where lawyers for the Human Rights League will call for the measure to be scrapped.
A burkini is a swimsuit which conforms to the traditions of Islamic dress by covering the woman’s body except the face.
Judges in Nice on Monday insisted that a ban was ‘necessary, appropriate and proportionate’, following the deaths of 86 people in a lorry attack in the city claimed by Islamic State.
They said the burkini was ‘liable to offend the religious convictions or non-convictions of other users on the beach’.
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But critics point to the fact that 30 Muslims were among the dead in Nice, and that the attack had absolutely nothing to do with swimwear.
Instead they say it is being used by racists to spread collective guilt among five million plus French Muslims, many of whom have strong links to former French colonies.
As the authorities in resorts such as Nice and Cannes have come under criticism after appearing to force women remove clothing when they have not been wearing burkinis.
Burkini ban: Armed police filmed ordering Muslim swimmer to get out of the sea
Anouar Kbibech, of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, has called for a crisis meeting with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
Mr Kbibech said he was ‘extremely concerned’ at the way the ban was being exploited, especially by far-right racists.
In 2010, France became the first European country to ban the Islamic veil in public places, six years after outlawing the headscarf and other conspicuous religious symbols in state schools.
The burkini ban will be considered by the Council of State this afternoon.
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