The French ban on the burkini is threatening to turn into a farce as police officers armed with pepper spray and batons marched onto a beach today and ordered a woman to strip off.
Four burly cops stood over the middle-aged woman, who had been quietly sunbathing on the Promenade des Anglais beach in Nice – yards from the scene of the Bastille Day lorry attack – and watched her take off a Muslim-style garment which protected her modesty. It is thought the woman was given a warning about the dress code on the beach and was handed an on-the-spot fine.
Another young Muslim mother was ordered off the beach at Cannes and fined for simply wearing a headscarf. Three armed officers pointed a pepper spray canister in the 34-year-old’s face and told her she was in breach of a new rule outlawing swimming costumes that cover the entire body.
She said the ‘racist’ officers simply wanted to humiliate her in front of her children and other family members, even though she was not even wearing a burkini.
It was the latest in a series of incidents in the south of France and comes after video emerged of armed police waiting for Muslim women to come out of the sea at nearby Nice, and then warning them about their choice of headscarves.
And just days ago, four women were fined 38 euros for wearing their burkinis on the beach in Cannes.
Identified only as Siam, the mother is a former air-hostess from Toulouse whose family members have been French citizens for at least three generations. ‘I wasn’t even planning to swim, just to dip my feet,’ said Siam, who was wearing leggings, a top, and a headscarf.
All of the items of clothing made Siam feel comfortable, and meant she was not exposed to the afternoon sun last Tuesday.
What she was not fully aware of, however, was that Cannes was one of a small number of towns that have banned the burkini for its alleged links to terrorism.
The beachwear does not cover the face either, and is worn by non-Muslims who want protection from the sun, but critics claim it is provocative.
When asked why she was dressed ‘inappropriately’, Sian replied: ‘I didn’t know exactly what was going on, I hadn’t really followed the controversy’.
Sian at first refused to undress or to leave the beach, saying: ‘My children were crying as they witnessed by humiliation’.
Mathilde Cusin, a journalist with the France 4 TV channel who witnessed the entire incident, said: ‘I saw three police officers watching the beach. One of them had his finger on the trigger of his tear gas device, no doubt containing pepper.’
Then Ms Cusin said the officers went for Siam, was wearing ‘a simple hijab [a headscarf that does not cover the face] around her hair’.
People then started shouting insults at Siam, telling her she was not welcome in France, and that she should ‘go home’.
Ms Cusin said: ‘It was pretty violent. I had the impression of a pack going after a woman sitting on the ground, crying with her daughter.’
Siam accepted an on-the-spot fine of around nine pounds, and her details were recorded on what will amount to a criminal record. She said: ‘Today we are not allowed on the beach. Tomorrow, the street? Tomorrow, we’ll be forbidden from practicing our religion at all?’
This article originally appeared on the Daily Mail.