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Burkinis and the beach: women protest outside the French Embassy

Sand was scattered across the street connecting Hyde Park and bustling Knightsbridge as women hurriedly formed a “beach” outside the French Embassy. Beach balls were inflated and placards held aloft against Islamaphobia and in support of women.

The gathering at midday on Thursday was organised using the hashtag #wearwhatyouwant on social media, to protest against the decision of 26 towns in southern France to ban the Burkini.

Protesters scatter sand across the front of the embassy (Taylor Heyman/PA)

One of the bans has been enacted in Nice.

Its mayor’s ruling stated: “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.”

Women who gathered at the protest said the clothing is nothing of the sort, merely a choice which allows women who wish to cover their bodies for a variety of reasons to go in the sea.

Women from a variety of backgrounds joined the protest, including a Christian priest.

Aina Khan from London told us: “It is ridiculous in this day and age that we’re being told what to do.”

Aina argues that it isn’t just about Muslim women, but all women.

“I’m here as a woman and as a Muslim woman.”
Placards expressed a range of opinions (Taylor Heyman/PA)Placards expressed a range of opinions (Taylor Heyman/PA)

The mood was bright, even if the weather began to turn grim towards the end of the event. Some women had even brought their children along to the protest, who merrily made sandcastles as the press snapped photographs.

A little girl holds a placard (Taylor Heyman/PA)A number of parents brought their children to the protest (Taylor Heyman/PA)

Amel said she brought her children, not pictured, along to show solidarity with French Muslim women. She said, “How can you be told what to wear, as a woman, as a man, as anyone?”

A woman gives a different view (Taylor Heyman/PA)A woman gives a different view (Taylor Heyman/PA)

The protest was briefly interrupted by a woman who took the floor to say: “France should be supported.” She told the gathered press and protesters that religion should be a private matter.

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