Burkini row has divided the French people
For students Omeyma Jebali and Sofia Abbou a ban on the burkini swimming costume, though now lifted, has ruined the allure of the beaches of southern France, unleashing a debate that seemed to them to question their place as Muslim women in France.
"We never had any problems, everything was really fine. But then, since these bans, we've become completely disheartened," 21-year-old Jebali said as Muslims in France and across the world celebrated the Eid festival.
Jebali, who started wearing the veil when she was 16 and used to go swimming with a burkini, said she stopped going to the beach because of the bans, which were put in place by dozens of mayors after an Islamic State attack on Nice.
"I didn't feel like going to a beach in Nice or Cannes only to find myself surrounded by four policemen having to debate what secularism means in France in 2016," she said.
Belgium: Burkini meets bikini
Muslim women in Belgium organised a different kind of protest. They gathered in Antwerp to celebrate at a beach party, dressed in burkinis, bikinis or bathing suits. Their motto was: "We are women and we are free". By Greta Hamann
Against the burkini ban: it's not a real beach and not France; nonetheless, it was a symbolic gesture against the now-overturned burkini ban on some French beaches. "Women and men should decide for themselves what they want to wear," said a woman wearing a bikini at the event
Celebrating together – no matter what clothes you wear: some wear burkinis, others wear bikinis - and everyone is happy. That is the message the protesters want to convey. Organisers had originally expected 300 people; over 1,000 people expressed their interest on Facebook
Completely covered at a beach party: the young women proved that you don't have to show lots of skin or wear beach attire at a summer party. Some came completely covered in a niqab and others came with a headscarf
'Ridiculous ban': "The ban is ridiculous. I want to wear what I want to wear. Women and men everywhere should be free to dress or undress themselves, depending on what they prefer," the young woman in a blue burkini (left) told Flanders News
We don't wear tents: the party was also a statement against the mayor of Antwerp who, according to reports in the Belgian newspaper "Gazet van Antwerpen," said that veiled women "wore tents"
Demonstration of solidarity: in Belgium, Muslims have the second largest religious community after Christians. Most Muslims are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Unity is something seldom seen in the country divided by the Flemish and Walloons
Right-wing protest: during the peaceful beach party, a few far-right anti-Islam demonstrators protested against the event. They chanted, "No jihad on our streets!"
Pro-burkini protests elsewhere: "Wear what you want" beach parties were held in London and Berlin. Activists brought sand to the French Embassy in London for their celebration
The bans have since been lifted but their mood has not changed.
"Me personally, with my burkini, I haven't been back."
Eighty-six people, including many Muslims, died in the Bastille Day attack in Nice, in which a man drove a truck into crowds of revellers.
France's Council of State overturned bans on full-body burkini swimsuits at the end of August, but the debate which has divided the government and split society rumbles on.
"I think these bans were put in place to create a climate of terror and to divide people, though there's no justification for that," 22-year-old economics major Abbou said.
"I think after attacks like the one of 14 July, what our politicians needed to do was to reassure the population, to do everything to bring people together, Muslims, non-Muslims, atheists, Christians and act so people can live in a country where they feel safe." (Reuters)
Related articles on Qantara.de: