The design is intended to accord with Islamic traditions of modest dress. The suit covers the whole body except the face, the hands and the feet, whilst being light enough to enable swimming. It resembles a full-length wetsuit with a built-in hood, but is somewhat looser and made of swimsuit material instead of neoprene. Zanetti's company Ahiida owns the trademarks to the words burqini and burkini, but they have become generic terms for similar forms of Islamic swimwear.
Other styles of "Islamic" swimwear include the veilkini and MyCozzie brand. Zanetti criticized the mycozzie suit, claiming it used lycra and was unsafe. This was disputed by the designer of the mycozzie swimsuit.
In August 2009, a woman in France was prevented from swimming in a public pool wearing a burqini, amidst ongoing controversy about Islamic dress. The action was justified by reference to a law that forbids swimming in street clothes. In August 2016, the mayor of Cannes banned the swimsuits, citing a possible link to Islamic extremism. Several other French towns, including Nice subsequently joined the ban. The ban has been supported by a number of French politicians, from the president of the anti-immigration National Front party Marine Le Pen to the socialist prime minister Manuel Valls, and prompted criticism and ridicule both in France and abroad, particularly in English-speaking countries.
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