THE BLOG
08/15/2016 11:24 am ET Updated Aug 16, 2017

The Cannes Burkini Ban Undermines Freedom Of Muslim Women

TIM WIMBORNE / Reuters

The mayor of Cannes has banned overtly religious clothing on the beach and in public swimming pools, all in the name of France's precious secularism.

Such secularism is rooted in the idea that the state itself is neutral, but that people should have the right to freely express their religious views.

Muslim women who opt for modest dress but still wish to be integrated in public space have in recent years adopted full-body swimsuits, known as "burkinis."

This decree, however, compromises the freedom of Muslim women, and more specifically, those who have decided to adopt a modest attire.

So what's the reason Cannes Mayor David Lisnard decided to ban burkinis?

The order states: "Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order."

Lisnard also described the full-body swimsuit as a "symbol of Islamic extremism."

This suggests that Muslim women who choose to wear headscarves and cover their bodies are symbols of extremist groups such as the Islamic State, and are therefore enemies of France.

How can a mayor of a prominent city with obvious cultural wealth resort to such an oversimplification? Terrorism specialists have not identified a link between wearing modest clothing and subscribing to terrorism.

  When will Muslims in Europe be respected and treated as equal citizens? When will we stop marginalizing millions of European Muslim citizens, especially women?

It is clear that the mayor of Cannes has not done his research. If he took a closer look, he would have realized that the primary victims of terrorist attacks are actually Muslims -- whether in Syria, Iraq or even in France!

In fact, Muslim civilians have also been killed by foreign military interventions in Syria.

It is unacceptable that we have decrees based on the idea that wearing a headscarf implies a link to fanaticism.

Citizens should be free to wear what they choose! When will Muslims in Europe be respected and treated as equal citizens? When will we stop marginalizing millions of European Muslim citizens, especially women?

It is high time to consider them as first-class citizens. They pay their taxes like everyone else does and invest in companies like any other citizen.

When will Muslim citizens be treated with dignity? Terrorism is not unique to Muslim families; it is an expression of a generation infatuated with violence.

Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights is quite clear about religious freedom: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance."

The Collective Against Islamophobia in France has condemned the ban, and we will take the case to the highest administrative court. We will work to bring down this mad, discriminatory decision, which targets Muslims, and specifically Muslim women who wear headscarves.

It appears that human rights are no longer guaranteed for everyone -- so we need to find a way to earn them.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Maghreb. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.