Mayor David Lisnard, who called the burkini "the uniform of extremist Islamism, not of the Muslim religion," cited public order concerns in light of the July terrorist attack in nearby Nice, which left 80 people dead, and a subsequent attack on a Catholic church in northwest France, in a municipal ordinance forbidding swimwear that doesn't respect "good morals and secularism."
This could be bad news for some wealthy Arab Muslims, who descend on the city in the summer months to escape the heat in places like Dubai and Kuwait.
"Beachwear manifesting religious affiliation in an ostentatious way, while France and its religious sites are currently the target of terrorist attacks, could create the risk of disturbances to public order," says the ordinance, which will be in effect through August — peak vacation season in southern France.
Other religious symbols, like the kippah and the cross, won't be affected by the ban, the mayor told local media. Neither will the hijab, which some Muslim women wear to cover their hair. The ban could also include saris worn by Indian women, however, because the long cloth could make it difficult for rescuers in case of an emergency, Lisnard told the Nice-Matin newspaper.
Before a fine of 38 euros ($42) is imposed, women wearing burkinis will be given the chance to either change or leave the beach. Since the rule came into effect on July 28 in the city — home to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival — no one's been apprehended.
This is yet another restriction on how Muslim women dress in France, home to about 5 million Muslims. The country was the first in Europe to ban burqas, which cover the length of the body, and niqabs, full veils for the face, in 2010.
A Marseilles waterpark, which arranged a burkini-only day earlier this week, cancelled the event in response to criticism from politicians, who said it contradicted France's secular values.
"I simply forbid a uniform that is the symbol of Islamic extremism," said Lisnard, according to the BBC. "We live in a common public space, there are rules to follow. "
The ban will be challenged in court by the Human Rights League, as well as the Collective Action Against Islamophobia in France, which expressed "deep concern about this new violation of the most elementary principles of law," and called Lisnard's argument "shocking."
One of several religious groups outraged by the ban, France's Southern Muslim federation also condemned "the illegal and abusive use of such procedures for the purpose of unique stigmatization and exclusion.