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Although the controversy over the burkini ban is far from over, leaders of France’s Muslim community hope that Monday’s conference will help decisively turn the page on the issue now that the ban has been overturned in at least one town.
“This positive step will bring an end to the nauseating story of the burkini,” said Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (Conseil français du culte musulman, or CFCM).
The talks will be held at the interior ministry in Paris, where religious leaders, community leaders and lawmakers will hold a series of meetings aimed at establishing a better “foundation for Islam in France”.
Speaking to French daily La Croix on Sunday, Cazeneuve reiterated the government’s opposition to legislating on the controversial matter which has sparked fierce debate both at home and abroad about women’s rights and France’s strictly guarded secularism.
It would be “unconstitutional” for France to pass a law banning the burkini and such a move could cause irreparable harm, Cazeneuve warned.
Around 30 coastal resorts have recently banned women from wearing the full-body swimwear on their beaches, although France’s highest administrative court (Le Conseil d’Etat or State Council) on Friday overturned the measure in one town – a ruling that is likely to set a legal precedent that will affect the other bans.
Rightwing figures are pushing for a nationwide ban to be written into law, led by former presidentNicolas Sarkozy, who this week launched his bid to regain the presidency in next year’s election.
But Cazeneuve ruled out a nationwide burkini ban.
“As the prime minister has said, the government refuses to legislate on the matter because any such law would be unconstitutional, ineffective and likely to create antagonism and irreparable tension,” he said.
“However, Muslims must continue to engage with us over gender equality, the inviolate nature of the principles of the French Republic, and tolerance in order to live together in peace,” he said.