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This French Mayor Thinks a Muslim Pool Party He’s Not Invited to Will Cause ‘Disorder’

Maybe he’s just disappointed that he wasn’t asked to join.

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On Sept. 10, a group of Muslim women and their young children will rent out the Speed Water Park for a private pool party in Pennes-Mirabeau, near the southern French city of Marseille.  

The event will be open to those willing to dress conservatively, with women likely to wear “burqinis,” or bathing suits that will cover them up from head to toe, and no boys over the age of 10 allowed to enter the pool.

That means that 62-year-old mayor of Pennes Mirabeau Michel Amiel is precisely 52 years too old to even be invited to swim at an event that he has since decided he will do everything in his power to cancel.

“I’m taking up a city bylaw that can prohibit this event on the grounds that it is likely to cause public disorder,” he told French daily le Parisien on Thursday. “This is communitarianism, pure and simple.”

How exactly a group of women and children swimming at a private party could spark “public disorder” remains unclear. The event is intended to give pious Muslim women a chance to swim, since they’re the ones who often have to opt out of pool parties due to men being in attendance.

Instead, it turned into an opportunity for French politicians to voice their concerns about Muslims they believe are infiltrating their otherwise secular communities.

“There is nothing innocuous about this,” said centre-right lawmaker Valérie Boyer, according to French newspaper l’Express. “The battle of ‘the veil’ is a visible sign of fundamentalists wanting to mark their territory and subjugate women, like men, and to establish a territory where Islam appears uniform and in social control.”

This isn’t the first time the burqini has caused controversy in Europe. In June, a swimming pool in Neutraubling, Germany, banned anyone from wearing them for a women’s swim day at a pool.

“Why the burqini as a full-body suit would be necessary to wear during a women’s swim day is for me incomprehensible,” Mayor Heinz Kiechle said at the time. “This also contradicts the fundamental ideas of integration and mutual understanding, which is always being discussed in many towns.”

Photo credit: ANOEK DE GROOT/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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