France Burkini Ban Photos Spark Heated Debate: ‘What If A Nun Was Forced To Remove Her Habit?’

'This is anything but Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité'

24/08/2016 11:25 | Updated 25 August 2016

Photos of four armed French policemen forcing a woman to remove her burkini on a beach have sparked a fierce debate.

The images were taken in Nice on Tuesday, the scene of a deadly Islamic extremist truck attack in July that killed 86 people.

The resort is one of a dozen in France that has imposed the ban over the summer months, with violators risking a £32 fine.

But the spectacle of a lone woman sitting in the sand as four armed men dressed in black loom over her has struck a nerve, with many drawing comparisons with a nun’s habit:

LBC radio host James O’Brien asked: “How would you feel if a nun was forced to take her habit off the beach?”, while Sky News anchor Kay Burley posted an image of two habit-wearing nuns frolicking joyfully in the sea captioned: “Sisters are doing it for themselves.”

“I don’t care how you feel about the burka, this is anything but Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité,” wrote Ed Burke, referring to the national motto of France. 

Citing writer Arundhati Roy, singer Charlotte Church posted an image featuring the statement: “It’s not about the burqa. It’s about coercion. Coercing a woman out of a burqa is as bad as coercing her into one.” 

Writer and presenter Caitlin Moran wrote: “Pretty sure a future of global peace and harmony doesn’t start with making women taking off their leggings.” 

Gogglebox vicar Kate Bottley tweeted: “France, love you for so many things, but neighbour you are being the worst kind of stupid over this, the dangerous kind, enough.” 

“There are people behaving inappropriately on this beach and the woman isn’t one of them,” stated Guardian journalist Hannah Jane Parkison, adding a comment on the apparent hypocrisy of: “Man dressed head to toe in black on beach tells off woman dressed head to toe in black on beach.”

The woman named as Siam, complied with the officers but was still issued a ticket stating she was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism.”

Former London Mayor candidate Zac Goldsmith opined: “When a secular democracy chooses to use armed police to force women to change their clothes on a beach, surely they have lost.”

Twitter user @allyska also posted an image of habit-wearing nuns enjoying the water, along with the remark: “The burkini ban is not about the promotion of secularist society. Exhibit A Eurocentrically acceptable attire…”

One person who was somewhat predictable in their response was professional provocateur and Daily MailOnline columnist Katie Hopkins.

”People hand-wringing over a woman asked to remove her beach burka. This isn’t about taking off clothes. But about taking back our culture.” 

She followed this with the threat: “I am going to Saudi Arabia to wander around their shops in shorts and a vest top. Let’s see how that goes down.” 

As Siam was forced to remove her long sleeved top, witnesses say beachgoers applauded the police and shouted at her to ‘go home’ as her young daughter began to cry.

The burkini ban has refueled debate over the French principle of secularism.

Even though it’s only worn by a minority, the burkini - a wetsuit-like garment that covers the torso, limbs and head - has prompted a national discussion about Islam and women’s bodies.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls says the swimsuit reflects a worldview based on “the enslavement of women.”

In an interview published on Wednesday in the La Provence newspaper, he said the belief that women are “impure and that they should therefore be totally covered” was part of an “archaic vision.”

“That is not compatible with the values of France,” Valls said.

Before the controversy over burkinis, French laws banning face-covering veils in public and headscarves in schools - also based on views they violate French secularism and oppress women - had alienated many among France’s 5 million Muslims.

Violent extremists also have cited the earlier bans as one of their justifications for targeting France.

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