Marseille ‘Burqini pool party’ scrapped after sparking outrage in secular France
A Marseille water park has cancelled plans to host a private event for Muslim women wearing burqinis – full-body swimsuits – after they sparked outrage in secular France, authorities and the park said on Tuesday.
“Neither Speedwater Park nor the town of Pennes-Mirabeau [a Marseille suburb] wish to be the site of public disorder,” they said in a joint statement.
The event was the brainchild of Smile 13, a women’s association catering for Arabs in the southern port city, whose population of nearly two million includes around 220,000 Muslims, mainly of Algerian origin.
The association had not confirmed its reservation or paid a deposit for the event pencilled in for September 10.
Politicians on both the right and the left slammed the plan as provocative, with left-wing senator Michel Amiel, the mayor of Pennes-Mirabeau, saying he would seek a ban.
“Extreme ideological positions are taking advantage of the controversy over this event to address conflicts in which Speedwater Park and the city of Pennes-Mirabeau do not wish to be involved,” the statement said.
Smile 13 said on its Facebook page it was “stunned and saddened” by the extent of the controversy.
It said that it had received threats – including bullets sent to it in the mail – and had informed the Collective against Islamophobia in France.
The water park initially said it “understands” why the plan “is of particular interest to the media during an emotionally difficult period” in the wake of two jihadist attacks that rocked France last month, including an attack with a truck that killed 84 people as they celebrated Bastille Day in the Riviera resort of Nice.
But the water park noted that as a private company it had a right to hold a private event.
Islamic dress is a hot-button issue in France, where the full-face veil is banned in public places.
Senator Stephane Ravier of Le Pen’s National Front said the planned burqini day showed that despite assurances from the Muslim community following the terror attacks, “a certain number of Muslims voluntarily set themselves apart from ... our society”.
Last month’s attacks – the Nice truck massacre, followed by the grisly knife murder of a priest near the northern city of Rouen less than a fortnight later – led to an outpouring of inter-faith solidarity.