Opinions vary regarding the burkini bans implemented across a string of French beaches. However, one prominent figure in the Jewish community has taken a stance on the topic.
In Paris, the city’s Grand Synagogue rabbi Moshe Sebagg spoke of his support for France’s burkini bans in an interview with JTA.
In the interview, Sebagg admitted the topic was a difficult one. “It’s a complicated subject and both sides have compelling arguments,” Sebagg said, adding that while the French state is a “secular country with freedom of religion,” the mayors (referring to the mayors that had banned the swimming garb in recent weeks) “understood that this is not about women’s liberty to dress modestly, but a statement as to who will rule here tomorrow. They understand today there’s a religious war, a takeover of the secular establishment of the French republic and this is what they find unacceptable,” Sebagg said.
In the interview, when Sebagg was asked if he agreed with the burkini bans, he stated, “Yes, because you that going with it [a burkini] is not innocent, it’s sending a message.”
Following the recent bans issued by Cannes Mayor David Lisnard, Sisco Mayor Ange-Pierre Vivoni of Corsica and Nice Mayor Lionnel Luca, many have questioned France’s right to discriminate against the swimming garment.
On the heels of rabbi Sebagg’s interview, some member of the left-wing Jewish community, namely the French Union For Peace (a far-left organization that supports the boycott of Israel), Jerusalem Post reported that co-President Pierre Stambul said in a statement last week that the burkini bans were “racist to Muslims” and that the group condemned “the silence of the Christian faith leaders and especially the Jewish ones.”
The comments were issued prior to a Muslim woman being asked by three armed French police on Tuesday to take off her burkini on a public beach in Nice.
Photos surfaced of four armed police members surrounding the woman who wore a blue headscarf and matching top. After the police exchanged words with the woman, she took off the blue long-sleeve top.
“I was sitting on a beach with my family,” the woman, Siam, relayed to The Guardian. “I was wearing a classic headscarf. I had no intention of swimming.”
Nice banned the burkini last week, prohibiting clothing that “overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks.”