More than two-thirds of French people are opposed to allowing the use of Islamic religious dress in state-run swimming pools, latest polling reveals.
According to a recent Ifop study commissioned by French newspaper Le Point, some 69 percent of those polled support a ban on the controversial burkini, the wearing of which is permitted in some French provinces and outlawed in others.
The poll also revealed a deep divide in French society with 72 percent of the country’s estimated 6 million Muslims being strongly in favor of the use of the swimwear which enables those who wear it to cover their entire body.
The burkini, first introduced to Australia in 2006 by Muslim designer Aheda Zanetti, has been an item of contention since August 2009 when a woman wearing it was prevented from swimming in a public pool. At the time, the refusal to permit the attire was on the grounds of prohibiting the use of street wear in swimming pools.
The issue became even more heated in 2016 when the mayor of Cannes banned the use of burkinis on the city’s beach fronts and swimming pools, citing a link to possible Islamic extremism.
The debate returned to the forefront of local politics in Grenoble this week after the council in the French city relaxed its rules regarding swimsuits in state-run swimming pools, authorizing women to wear the one-piece burkini favored by some Muslims while also enabling women to expose their breasts.
“We note a logic of solidarity with the community cause,” François Kraus of Ifop told Le Point, for whom these results indicate “a clear dissonance between the French Muslim population and the rest of the French population.”
However, it should be noted that the degree of religiosity greatly influences the degree of acceptance or rejection of the burkini: 68 percent of Muslims who do not practice weekly prayer are unfavorable to the burkini, compared to just 19 percent of Muslims who do, revealing that support of the burkini appears to correspond with the aspirations of a very small religious minority.