The mayor of the seaside city of Cannes in southern France has banned non-secular bathing attire, including the Islam-influenced burkini, citing security reasons for the decision.
In an order signed by mayor David Lisnard on July 28, beach access is denied to anyone "lacking correct attire, respectful of good customs and secularism." Wearing clothing while swimming was also banned. The order is in effect through August 31.
Burkinis - a portmanteau of burqa and bikini - are swimsuits designed to cover women's heads, arms and legs while bathing in keeping with Islamic standards of modesty.
The order cited terrorist violence in France since 2015 as considerations for the decision, particularly noting a July 14 attack in neighbouring Nice that left 85 people dead and a church attack shortly thereafter during which a priest was killed.
In an interview published Friday in local newspaper Nice-Matin, Lisnard said he made the decision following a controversy over a planned swim park day reserved exclusively for women wearing Islamic swimwear. The day has since been cancelled.
Cannes recently issued an order prohibiting large bags on the beach, also citing security concerns as France reels from attacks that have left more than 230 people dead in the past 19 months.
But the burkini ban prompted fierce criticism, and a local president of the French Human Rights League blasted the order as an abuse of the law.
"I don't have the desire nor the time to create a polemic," Lisnard said, defending his decision not to publicize the order and pointing to the fact that the Muslim veil, Jewish skull cap and Christian cross were all permitted.
"When I made the decision to ban people walking along the streets of Cannes bare-chested, no one was upset. This order aims to protect the population without discrimination."