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French mayor reignites burkini war after allowing women to cover in municipal pools

LONDON: A French local authority that allowed women to swim in pools either topless or wearing burkinis has outraged both conservatives and left-wing feminists.

Grenoble mayor Eric Piolle has been accused of “surrendering to Islamist ideology” following a decision to change the rules in the city’s municipal pools to allow Muslim women to swim in bathing suits that cover their hair and bodies, The Times reported.

The admission of swimmers in burkinis must be approved by the council next week, and was described by Piolle as “an act of social progress” because it broke with “injunctions by the authorities on the clothing worn by women.”

Piolle and his Green Party argue that women should be allowed to dress as they like and swim topless or fully clothed.

A left-wing pro-Muslim campaign group called Citizen Alliance has been holding protests in Grenoble and elsewhere over the ban on burkinis enforced by the majority of town councils.

Traditional French feminists and mainstream politicians back the burkini ban, arguing that Muslim women should not be subject to male religious diktats on modesty.

The conservative president of the Rhone-Alpes region, Laurent Wauquiez, was angered by the decision and accused Piolle of “making deals with political Islam.”

He threatened to cut off millions of euros of regional council subsidies to Grenoble if the city went ahead with the new rules allowing burkinis. “Not one centime . . . will finance your submission to Islamism,” Wauquiez tweeted.

Piolle accused Wauquiez of racism and sexism, and compared him to Marine Le Pen, France’s anti-immigrant presidential candidate who was defeated last month.

Le Pen promised to ban women from wearing the hijab in public if she was elected.

“Where will this witch hunt for French women who wear the hijab end?” Piolle said.

Last year, Wauquiez cut subsidies from a Grenoble university after a series of rows over its application of US-inspired “woke” doctrines on gender and race.

President Macron’s government has attacked the Grenoble-based Citizen Alliance and called it a “front for Islamist indoctrination.”

The Council of the Wise on Laicite, an advisory ministerial body set up by Macron’s administration, ruled that burkinis could be outlawed from municipal pools in April.

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