A group of Muslim women in France says they have a dream—a dream to “have fun in public swimming pools like all other citizens.”
That’s why they defied a burkini ban at a swimming pool in Grenoble, France on Sunday to stand up for the rights of Muslim women.
"We have a dream, to have fun in public swimming pools like all other citizens, to accompany our children whenever they want to have a swim while it is very hot in the summer here in Grenoble,” Hassiba, one of the Muslim women involved in the protest, told BBC, echoing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech demanding equal rights.
In a protest called “Operation Burkini,” seven women, joined by 30 supporters in solidarity, swam at the Jean Bron public pool in Grenoble, community organizing group Citizen Alliance of the Greater Grenoble Area posted on Facebook. Some of the women proudly waded into the pools sporting swimsuits that covered nearly all of their body except their hands, face and feet.
Although lifeguards warned the Muslim women that their swimsuits broke the pool’s dress code, fellow community members cheered and applauded the women when they defiantly bathed in the pool anyway.
Taous Hammouti, one of the female protesters, said the women did not want to accept "another summer deprived of access to public pools," Sky News reported.
Police later came to question the women disobeying the pool’s dress code, fining each of them €35 euros, which is roughly $40, France Bleu reported.
The demonstration was part of a larger campaign that began in May 2018 in which more than 600 Muslim women signed a petition imploring the Grenoble mayor tochange the restrictive dress code at the city’s public swimming pools, according to a Citizen Alliance Facebook post.
A combination of the word “burqa” and “bikini,” the burkini is a swimsuit for women designed to allow women to swim in public while respecting the Islamic traditions of modest dress. However, the swimsuit has been controversial since its inception.
While many cities in France have banned the swimming garment altogether, this isn’t the first time French authorities have prohibited Muslim garb. In 2010, France became the first European country to ban women from wearing the niqab, a full-face veil worn by some Muslim women, in public. However, there has been pushback from the international community on such discriminatory laws, with the U.N. calling France’s ban a human rights violation.
Protesters told Sky News the act of civil disobedience was inspired by black civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who catalyzed one of the largest civil rights movements in history by refusing to give up her seat to white passengers on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. Her courageous act of defiance would end the segregation on buses in the U.S.
More than six decades after Parks’ demonstration, these Muslim women are standing up for their civil right to access public swimming pools and abide by the traditions of their Islamic faith.
"We must fight against discriminatory policies and prejudice in France, as we are actually deprived of our civil rights of access to public services and city-owned infrastructures," a protester named Latifa told BBC.
Citizen Alliance of the Greater Grenoble Area did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.
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