Will change French constitution to ban burkini if re-elected, says Sarkozy

Paris: Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday said he will change the constitution to ban the burkini if he is re-elected as President of France. His comments come in response to the French interior ministers statement that a nationwide burkini ban would be unconstitutional.

In a Sunday interview with La Croix, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that banning the burkini — full-body swimwear worn by Muslim women — nationwide would be “ineffective and unconstitutional”.

Sarkozy, however, did not hesitate to respond to a reporter’s question on the issue, saying: “Well, then we change the constitution (to allow a burkini ban). We’ve changed it 30-odd times, it’s not a problem.”

A survey published by France’s TNS Sofres on Sunday showed that about 34 per cent of supporters of the centre-right Les Republicains party would vote for Sarkozy in the first round of the presidential primary set to take place in late November.

The burkini issue has ignited fierce debate in France, with divisions among politicians and the public over whether the swimwear should be banned.

Last week, France’s top administrative court suspended a burkini ban imposed by the southern town of Villeneuve-Loubet. On Monday, cases were launched against four more towns to scrap the ban.

Dozens of other French towns and regions which also imposed a ban on burkinis have expressed their outrage over the Villeneuve-Loubet ruling, saying their restrictions remain in force.

Many have defended the ban, saying it is justified by the fear and insecurity felt in the light of terrorist attacks, and that France is above all a secular state.

Others have questioned the ban, using jokes to criticize the perceived injustice and level of attention given to the issue.