France burkini ban
Taking a swim to show solidarity
03:30 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Australian Muslim traveled to France to show solidarity over burkini ban

Zeynab Alshelh and her family were kicked off beach for wearing full-cover swimsuit

CNN  — 

An Australian medical student says she and her mother were forced to leave a beach on the French Riviera after locals took exception to their burkinis.

Zeynab Alshelh told CNN affiliate Seven Network she had traveled to the south coast of France to don the full-coverage swimsuit in solidarity with other women who had been abused on beaches there.

“I wanted to see it for myself, I wanted to see what is going on here? Why is this happening?” she said, adding that in her view, the ban was “ridiculous, it just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Accompanied by a TV crew, Alshelh, 23, from Sydney, attempted to visit Villeneuve-Loubet, one of the beaches where a ban on burkinis has recently been overturned.

READ MORE: Burkini ban overturned by French court

But rather than being allowed to enjoy the sun, sand and blue sea, she and her mother and father were told they were not welcome.

Footage aired on Channel 7’s current affairs show Sunday Night showed other beachgoers staring and offering thumbs down signs, and one man publicly remonstrating with the family.

“We were threatened by locals to leave the beach,” Alshelh said. “And if we didn’t they were going to call the police. They weren’t happy with us being there.”

Burkini ban

More than 30 beaches, most of them along France’s southeastern coastline, imposed a ban on the burkini earlier this summer, in the wake of the Bastille Day terror attack, in which 86 people were killed.

READ MORE: Why are the burqa and burkini banned?

Authorities in Nice argued that outfits “ostentatiously showing religious beliefs may be interpreted as affiliation with religious fundamentalism,” and that the ban was justified because people in the region were still traumatized by the attack.

But Alshelh told Channel 7 “there shouldn’t be a connection between terrorism and the burkini – there shouldn’t be a connection between terrorism and Islam altogether.”

The Australian inventor of the burkini, Aheda Zanetti, has previously told CNN that those angered by the swimsuit had “misunderstood” what she had intended as a “positive garment.”

Alshelh said she was deeply concerned that the burkini ban was just the beginning of discrimination against Muslims: “It starts off at the beach, and God knows where it ends.”