An Australian Muslim woman has been chased off a French beach by locals who threatened to call the police because she was wearing a burkini, even though a ban on the controversial swimsuit had been lifted.

Zeynab Alshelh, 23, a medical student from Sydney, told Australian television that she flew to France to show solidarity with local Muslims after more than 30 French resorts banned the burkini earlier this summer.

Alshelh and her mother went to a Riviera beach wearing blue burkinis a few weeks ago but were told to leave minutes after they arrived, Australia's Channel Seven reported.

It broadcast footage of the incident showing furious locals gesturing and confronting the pair - although they were in the resort of Villeneuve-Loubet, where the ban on the full-body swimsuit had already been overturned by France's highest administrative court.


"We were threatened by locals to leave the beach and if we didn't they were going to call the police," Alshelh told the channel. "They weren't happy with us being there, even though it was on the beach that the burkini ban was overturned, but the locals were not happy."

Some beachgoers made hand gestures and disapproving noises while a man told Alshelh he would call the police if she refused to leave.

"There shouldn't be a connection between terrorism and the burkini and there shouldn't be a connection between terrorism and Islam altogether," she said.

Dozens of French resorts banned the full-body swimwear following the massacre of 86 people on Nice seafront in July. Isis (Islamic State) terror group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, described the swimsuit worn by some Muslim women as a symbol of the "enslavement of women" - but human rights campaigners said burkini bans unfairly targeted Muslims.

Their view was backed by the Council of State, the administrative court. It ruled last month that the bans breached civil liberties and found that officials had failed to prove that the swimsuit posed a threat to public order.

However, many French resorts have continued to enforce their bans, under which women can be fined for wearing the burkini. Earlier this month a lower court in Corsica upheld a local ban decreed by a mayor.

The burkini originated in Australia, where it was introduced in 2004 by an Australian-Lebanese designer, Aheda Zanetti. Zanetti said it was not a religious garment and she designed it to allow more Muslim women to take part in swimming and other sports. Her intention, she said, was "to give women freedom, not to take it away".

Alshelh said she visited France to speak to local Muslim women "who have gone through this kind of stuff," adding that the burkini had allowed her to combine her religion with her love of sports, including karate, which she has practised since the age of 11.