Swim-day for women near Marseille prompts ban call

PARIS (AP) " The mayor of a town outside Marseille said Thursday he intends to ban a swim-day for women at a local park next month, citing a risk to public order because swimmers will be required to cover up from chest to knee.

The association Smile 13 organized the event for women, girls, and boys under 10, for Sept. 10. Swimmers have been asked to respect the Islamic notion of "awra," a reference to parts of the body to be hidden " causing concern among some in secular France.

Michel Amiel, mayor of Pennes-Mirabeau, north of Marseille, a Mediterranean port city with a large Muslim population, where the swimming park is located, said he intends to ban the event because it risks "disturbing public order."

Amiel cited the current climate in France after the July 14 truck attack in Nice and the killing of a priest at Normandy church less than two weeks later for his stance.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Amiel described the decision to invite women to swim covered up a "provocative act" and said the turning toward (Muslim) identity "puts oil on the fire and only maintains a deleterious climate."

Amiel said he would even take the matter to the courts if the local prefect rejects a ban.

Conservative lawmaker Valerie Boyer, mayor of two Marseille districts, also condemned the plan, saying the covering of women is "against human dignity."

France is a secular state and citizens try, sometimes zealously, to ensure secular values remain respected in an increasingly multicultural society. Two laws, a ban on headscarves in classrooms in 2004 and on face veils in streets in 2010, aim to keep religious symbols out of public life.

Smile 13, which describes itself as a "socio-cultural, sports and aid" group for women and children, could not be reached immediately for comment.

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Margaid Quioc in Marseille contributed to this report.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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