Protest continued outside the French Embassy in London over burkini ban

Protest over France’s decision to ban the burkini continued outside the French Embassy in London today, with hundreds of people gathering to show “solidarity with their sisters in France”.

The protest, which was organised by anti-racism group, Stand Up To Racism, attracted people from all backgrounds. The protesters picked up placards reading: “Fight against racism and Islamophobia: Defend women’s rights to choose,” and “Burkini ban is racist.”

Those speaking at the gathering included students, teachers, LGBT community representatives, Muslim women and trade union representatives.

Many of those gathered expressed feelings of shock and dismay at seeing the images of women being confronted on beaches, with speakers repeatedly mentioning the image of a woman being ordered to strip by armed police officers. One speaker said: “I was moved by the images of the woman on the beach and the armed police men,” and another adding, “they were not only racist, but also sexist.” For one lady, the images depicted “what France has become as a society”. And a confused teacher wanted to let the French know, “no woman has ever been liberated at the end of a gun barrel”.

Many of the speakers made parallels between what is happening in Europe now — this current Islamophobia — and other forms of discrimination and racism of the past. A member of the LGBT community said she was horrified Muslims have become the gay community of the 1980s when the AIDS hysteria created an atmosphere where they “were blamed for everything”.

Speakers also talked about how France’s laws and attitude towards the Muslim community have become very racist and Islamophobic, saying, “this is the latest in a wave of attacks” the community has suffered. And that France’s decision to now suspend the ban only came as a “result of the amount of solidarity” from across the world. One speaker told the audience, “France should be more concerned with how the children in Calais are dressed” rather than how Muslim women dress for the beach.

On Thursday, female protesters gathered outside the French Embassy, “dumping tonnes of sand” for a beach party, wearing whatever they liked.

France, which is home to the largest Muslim community in Europe — about 5 million — majority from former colonies in North Africa, has a history of policing how Muslim women and girls dress. In 2004, a law was passed to ban hijab in state schools, in 2005 the full dress was banned, and in 2010 the face veil faced a ban.

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