A Muslim women’s association based in the city of Marseille, which has a large Muslim population, has caused outrage in secular France with its plans to rent a swimming pool for a day only for women, and saying they must be covered up chest to knees.
The “cultural association” Smile 13 has privately rented the entire swim centre in the town of Pennes-Mirabeau, ten miles outside of Marseille. Michel Amiel, mayor of Pennes-Mirabeau, does not want the event in his town and is planning to ban it on the grounds that it would cause a “public disorder”.
Smile 13, like the organisers of the Luton men’s only swimming events, invites customers to respect the “awrah” (in Islam, parts of the body that are considered not permissible to show in public ‘for modesty’), and is block ordering burkinis (Islamic swimwear that covers a woman from head to ankle) on their Facebook page.
The post accompanying the event states that the body must be covered “from chest to knees…the minimum is a one-piece suit with short-shorts or sarong”. Boys up to 10 years old are allowed to swim – but not men.
Lawmakers and politicians have seen this event, planned for the 17th of September, as an affront to French values, the Republic, and gender equality.
Valérie Boyer, Member of the National Assembly (the lower house of Parliament) for Bouches-du-Rhône, sees the segregated swim as “a social confinement”:
“This type of event is not going in the direction of the laws of the Republic of gender equality. What shocks me is that we say to women they need they cover themselves, otherwise they are shameless.“
Stephane Ravier, mayor of the 13th and 14th boroughs of Marseille, said: “This ‘Islamic Day’ demonstrates that a number of Muslims voluntarily cut themselves off from our Republican model.”
And Mr. Amiel, mayor of Pennes-Mirabeau, said: “I’ll propose a bylaw prohibiting [the event] on the grounds that it is likely to disturb public order.
“This is a provocation which is not needed in the current context.”
Read more: Segregated swimming in Luton pool is a “cultural thing”, claim staff