Protesters don beachwear in Berlin to fight French ban on burkinis

The most scandalous outfit at a beach party against racism outside the French Embassy in Berlin on Thursday left more to the imagination than the average swimwear at such gatherings.

Dozens of people, carting towels and water pistols along with their protest signs, sat outside the embassy near the Brandenburg Gate to demonstrate against burkini bans in several French towns.

"The idea is to show that it's not OK for women to be told what they're allowed to wear," said Larissa, one of the four event organizers from the Salaam-Schalom Initiative, which promotes religious tolerance. She asked that her last name be withheld for privacy reasons.

The protesters fanned out around Larissa, who was wearing a blue burkini, reflected that message of tolerance, with men in swim trunks alongside women in bikini tops and one-piece swimsuits.

"I'm not a fan of the burkini, because it just looks strange," said Aisha Gerner, who was wearing part of the garment designed to keep with Islamic standards of modesty by covering the arms, legs and head. "But if I like it or not, it doesn't matter," she said, because it allows women to be part of society. "This is freedom." 

The burkini has been prohibited in a series of local ordinances across France, with even former president and upcoming election hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy calling the swimwear a "provocation."  

"It's mainly men talking on TVs, mainly men when it comes to security issues, Islam, it's always men," said Yossi Bartal, standing over his blue beach towel. "But women are never really being asked, and that's why it's important here that women are speaking for themselves."

Similar parties are planned for cities across Germany, including Hamburg, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. In London, several dozen people held a beach party protest in front of the French Embassy on Thursday.

The protest in Berlin comes days after German Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere had called for a ban on burqas in parts of public life, saying that "the obligation to showing a person's face is fundamental to living together in our society."

According to a recent study, 81 per cent of Germans support banning Muslim women from being able to wear full-body veils, such as the burka or niqab, in certain areas when out in public.

Last update: Thu, 25/08/2016 - 22:00
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