Europe

'Burkini-only day' at French waterpark cancelled

The Islamic full-length swimming suit known as burkini is displayed on mannequins at a sports store in Dubai on August 23, 2009 Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Women who who would have attended the event were told by organisers to be covered from the chest to the knees

A waterpark near the French city of Marseille has cancelled a day booked by Muslim women to wear "burkinis", the all-over swimming garment.

A statement made by the waterpark said the decision had been taken to preserve public order which was being endangered by "extreme ideological positions".

The "burkini day" was intended only for women wanting to wear the garment.

But it was criticised by conservative politicians who argued it contravened legally-enshrined secular values.

Event Organisers Smile 13 had said that the event, scheduled for 10 September, was for women wearing an all-over body suit that covered from the chest to the knees. The group had made clear that two-piece swimming costumes would not be allowed.

Smile 13 says that, since announcing its plans earlier this month, it has received revolver bullets delivered by courier. In a Facebook post (in French), the group condemned what it called "the Islamophobic polemic" to which it was subjected.

The Islamic veil across Europe

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption 'Burkinis' have been worn by lifeguards in Australia
Image caption The event scheduled for 10 September has now been shelved

Smile 13 said on its Facebook account that it viewed "with astonishment and regret the extent of the controversy" surrounding the planned event.

Although the initiative was legal, it nevertheless caused uproar among local officials and some right-of-centre politicians.

They denounced what they said was a new expression of "communalism" and "violation of the dignity of women".

The planned event was also attacked by Stephane Ravier, a mayor of two Marseille districts with the far-right National Front (FN).

The Speedwater Park near Marseille announced on Tuesday that it had finally decided not to go ahead with Smile 13's reservation, which had not been confirmed or paid for.

"Neither SpeedWater Park [n]or the [commune] of Pennes-Mirabeau want to... disturb public order caused by issues beyond their territories," the statement said.

France was the first European country to ban the full-face Islamic veil in public places, but it is legal to wear Islamic dress.

The country has about five million Muslims, the largest Muslim minority in Western Europe, but it is thought only about 2,000 women wear full veils.

Islamic headscarves were also banned in French schools in 2004.

The plan was for boys under the age of 10, but no men, to be allowed to attend the "burkini" day.

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