An Australian Muslim woman who wore a burkini to a French beach said she was asked to leave despite a ban on the controversial full-bodied swimsuit recently being overturned.
Sydney-born Zeynab Alshelh, a 23-year-old medical student, told Australia’s Channel 7 that she travelled to Europe to show solidarity with French Muslims by wearing a burkini -- invented by an Australian designer -- on the beach.
Footage broadcast on Sunday evening showed local bathers make disparaging gestures towards Alshelh, who is sitting burkini-clad on the sand in Villeneuve-Loubet with her mother.
“We were threatened by locals to leave the beach and if we didn’t they were going to call the police,” Alshelh said.
“Even though it was on the beach that the burkini ban was overturned but the locals were not happy.”
Nice and about 30 other French towns banned the Islamic swimsuit after a July terror attack in which a man plowed his truck into crowds gathered for Bastille Day fireworks killing 86 people.
In August, France’s highest court suspended the burkini bans declaring the swimsuit’s prohibition an “illegal violation of fundamental freedoms”.
Aheda Zanetti, the Australian woman who designed the burkini, recently expressed surprise at the furore over her creation, saying it was meant to be a symbol of inclusion and allow Muslim women to take part in beach culture.
But the seemingly innocuous item of clothing has continued to prove an emotive topic and opinion polls in fiercely secular France show burkini bans have the support of a majority of the public.
“It starts off at the beach and God knows where it ends,” Zeynab added to Channel 7, saying that while there was racism in Australia there were no bans on clothing.
Australia is grappling with a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment after a series of attacks by radicalised youth and last week anti-immigration politician Pauline Hanson called for an end to Muslim immigration and a ban on the burqa.