FOLLOWING the decision by several French beach resorts to ban the burkini – an Islamic swimsuit that leaves only the face, hands and feet uncovered – Spain has waded into the cultural debate as a Girona waterpark issues a ban on the garb for safety reasons.
The ban puts the waterpark’s administration at odds with the Barcelona government, which has categorically said it will put no such ban in place, with deputy mayor Gerardo Pisarello arguing that women should have the right to dress as they please.
“Our main concern is that women can dress and swim as they like, that they have the freedom to do so,” he said in response to growing French intolerance of the controversial swimwear, which peaked this week as Nice became the largest local authority yet to issue a blanket ban.
New legislation in the southern French city refers to the horrendous Bastille Day attack in July, which saw 86 people killed by an Islamic extremist, forbidding clothing that: “overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks”
The city’s deputy mayor has written 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”, while prime minister Manuel Valls has said the burkini is “not compatible with the values of France” and “founded on the subjugation of women”.
Maribel Lopez, director of the Girona waterpark, has taken a more tactful approach, comparing the attire to other banned items, including baggy t-shirts and other loose clothing. However, as individual authorities are vested with the power to determine which clothing is permitted, the burkini debate looks set to draw more attention in Spain, especially in Catalonia, home to the country’s largest Muslim population.