Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced Monday that if reelected he would amend the country’s constitution to include an all-out ban on full-body burkini swimsuits.
Sarkozy’s words follow on a week of intense debate regarding a number of local burkini bans throughout France. On Friday, France’s highest administrative court annulled the ban on burkinis adopted by some 15 French coastal cities, on the grounds that they violated fundamental rights of citizens.
Alain Juppe, a former Prime Minister, registered his disagreement with Sarkozy, claiming that he was opposed to a “law of circumstance,” while also cautioning citizens against “throwing oil on the fire.”
“I think the rule soothes and the absence of rule pushes everyone to abuses,” replied Sarkozy.
Last week, Sarkozy called burkini swimsuits a “provocation” that supports radicalized Islam. Framing the issue as one of women’s rights, the former president said that “we don’t imprison women behind fabric” in a TV interview Wednesday night.
Now the ex-head of state has vowed that if he is re-elected to his former role in a vote next April he will enshrine the prohibition of the controversial swimsuit in the nation’s constitution.
Facing stiff opposition from the populist Front National, Sarkozy is trying to position himself as the true conservative option for France, a defender of French values with a tough stance on immigration.
Among the cities affected by the court’s overturning of burkini bans last week was the seaside city of Nice, which was hit by a devastating attack by an Islamic terrorist who drove his truck along the waterfront Promenade des Anglais, mowing down pedestrians celebrating Bastille Day. The July 14 massacre resulted in the deaths of 86 people, with hundreds more suffering injuries.
Twelve days later, France was struck by another Islamic attack, when two young Muslims who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State slit the throat of an elderly priest, Father Jacques Hamel, as he celebrated Mass at his church near Rouen, Normandy.
Prior to Nice’s ban, former Mayor Christian Estrosi wrote to Prime Minister Manuel Valls, saying that “hiding the face or wearing a full-body costume to go to the beach is not in keeping with our ideal of social relations.”
After the court repealed the bans on burkinis, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that a law against the swimwear would now be ruled unconstitutional.
Asked for a response, Sarkozy said: “Well, then we change the constitution. We’ve changed it thirty odd times, it’s not a problem.”
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