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.
Ban in France
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. At least 20 other French towns, including Nice subsequently joined the ban. Dozens of women were subsequently issued fines, with some tickets citing not wearing "an outfit respecting good morals and secularism", and some were verbally attacked by bystanders when they were confronted by the police. Enforcement of the ban also hit beachgoers wearing a wide range of modest attire besides the burqini. Media reported that in one case armed police forced a woman to remove her clothing on a beach in Nice. The Nice mayor's office denied that she was forced to do so and the mayor condemned what he called the "unacceptable provocation" of wearing such clothes in the aftermath of the Nice terrorist attack.
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. Valls stated: "It is the expression of a political project, a counter-society, based notably on the enslavement of women." Liberal British Muslim activist Maajid Nawaz offered a critique of both the swimsuit and its ban: "Burkini is sad symbol of Islam today going backwards on gender issues. Banning it is sad symbol of liberalism today going backwards in reply." Other Muslim commentators, particularly Muslim women, have argued that the burqini gives women who do not wish to expose their body for religious or other reasons the freedom to enjoy the beach. A New York Times editorial called French politicians’ "paternalistic pronouncements on the republic’s duty to save Muslim women from enslavement" bigotry and hypocritical. Reports of Muslim women being stopped by police for wearing headscarves and long-sleeved clothes on beaches caused outrage among members of the French socialist party and rights groups.
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