Nicolas Sarkozy launched his presidential bid on Thursday night by calling for a nationwide ban on the burkini, according to multiple reports.
A burkini is a type of swimsuit that some Muslim women wear to the beach. The garment has been the subject of much controversy lately: Officials in more than a dozen cities in France have now banned women from wearing them.
“I refuse to let the burkini impose itself at French beaches and swimming pools ... there must be a law to ban it throughout the Republic’s territory,” said Sarkozy on Thursday, according to The Telegraph.
Sarkozy was president of France until 2012, when he was unseated by Francois Hollande, who currently holds the office. Presidential elections in France are scheduled for next year, when Sarkozy hopes to regain the title.
Hollande is a member of France's center-left Socialist Party, while Sarkozy belongs to the right-of-center Republican party.
Sarkozy appears to be capitalizing on anti-immigrant sentiment in France.“Where is the authority when it is the minorities who govern? Never before has so much been ceded to them,” he declared on Thursday night.
France has suffered a series of attacks lately, including the Daesh-inspired slaying of an elderly priest and a deady truck attack in Nice that left 86 people dead. Both attacks occurred in July.
It’s likely that Sarkozy is exploiting fear among French citizens that similar attacks could become more common in the future.
But his remarks didn’t go over well with some observers.
“Honestly distracting the French public with a Burkini debate is ridiculous. Focus on real issues, on real ‘threats,’” tweeted Beirut-based journalist Rana Harbi.
If you think a woman in a Burkini is more of a threat than the jihadists your state is supporting in Syria you need a reality check.#France— Rana H. (@RanaHarbi) August 26, 2016
“I would rather know if you (like Hollande) plan on maintaining France's support (both politically and military) to al-Qaeda jihadists in Syria,” Harbi posted on Facebook. “[And] if you are willing to clamp down on Saudi-financed clerics who are preaching hate in mosques and ‘educational’ institutions in France & all over Europe… Aren't they a bigger ‘threat to national security’ and ‘French values’ than Burkinis?” she asked.
During his time as president (from 2007-2012), Sarkozy took a hard line on the way Muslim women dressed, saying that face veils were "not welcome" on French soil and contributed to the debasement of women. It was during Sarkozy's term as president that Islamic dress in France first became a national issue.
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