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Muslim in burkini banned from France pool

French convert to Islam slams rules of "segregation"

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A swimming pool in France has refused entry to a young Muslim woman wearing a "burkini," a swimsuit that covers most of the body, officials said Wednesday.

The pool ban came as French lawmakers conduct hearings on whether to ban the burqa after President Nicolas Sarkozy said the head-to-toe veil was "not welcome" in the secular country.

Officials in the Paris suburb of Emerainville said they let the woman swim in the pool in July wearing the "burkini," designed for Muslim women who want to swim without revealing their bodies.

But when she returned in August they decided to apply hygiene rules and told her she could not swim if she insisted on wearing the garment, which resembles a wetsuit with built-in hood.

Pool staff "reminded her of the rules that apply in all (public) swimming pools which forbid swimming while clothed," said Daniel Guillaume, an official with the organization which manages pools in the area.

Le Parisien newspaper said the woman identified only by her first name Carole was a French convert to Islam and that she was determined to go to the courts to challenge the decision.

Pool staff reminded her of the rules that apply in all (public) swimming pools which forbid swimming while clothed

Daniel Guillaume

"Quite simply, this is segregation," the paper quoted her as saying. "I will fight to try to change things. And if I see that the battle is lost, I cannot rule out leaving France."

Local mayor Alain Kelyor said "all this has nothing to do with Islam," adding that the "burkini" was "not an Islamic swimsuit, that type of suit does not exist in the Koran," the Muslim holy book.

France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority, has set up a special panel of 32 lawmakers to consider whether a law should be enacted to bar Muslim women from wearing the full veil, known as a burqa or niqab.

Quite simply, this is segregation...I will fight to try to change things. And if I see that the battle is lost, I cannot rule out leaving France

Carole