Burkinis banned in Corsican town after beach clashes
Police investigation under way to determine the cause of the brawl at Sisco
Police block a crowd of protesters from marching into a housing estate in the Lupino district of Bastia, which has a large North African community, on the island of Corsica on Sunday. Photograph: Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP/Getty Images
A Corsican mayor has announced a ban on burkinis, becoming the third in France to do so , as tensions on the island run high following violent clashes between villagers and three Muslim families.
Skirmishes at a beach in the commune of Sisco at the weekend left four people injured and resulted in riot police being brought in to stop a crowd of 200 Corsicans marching into a housing estate with a high population of people of North African origin, shouting “this is our home”.
A police investigation is under way to determine the cause of the violent brawl.
There has been no confirmation from police or the local prosecutor’s office as to whether or not anyone on the beach was wearing a burkini at the time of the incident. But the local Socialist mayor, Ange-Pierre Vivoni, said burkinis would be banned in the area from this week. He is the first leftwing mayor to ban burkinis, describing the measure as necessary to “protect the population”.
The clashes have highlighted deep tensions on Corsica over people of north African origin.
Taking a photograph
About a dozen teenagers from the village were at the beach on Saturday, along with three Muslim families. Witnesses told newspaper Le Monde that a father from one of the families complained about a person taking a photograph of his wife. An altercation took place and the teenagers called their parents.
The local deputy prosecutor said four people, including a pregnant woman, were taken to hospital for treatment, while bottles and stones were thrown, and three cars were set alight. About 100 police officers attended the scene. Le Monde reported that a police cordon was set up to protect the Muslim families.
Tense scenes followed on Sunday as a large crowd gathered in the town of Bastia, about 12 miles (19km) away, seeking to enter the Lupino district, which is home to a large North African community. “We’re going up there because this is our home,” people in the crowd shouted. Police blocked them from entering.
Gilles Simeoni, the head of the Corsican executive, said the island had to avoid a spiral of skirmishes and scapegoating. “We must not confuse certain people who behave badly with the near whole of the North African population, who live in Corsica in a calm and harmonious way,” he said.
Mr Simeoni warned of tensions spilling out and being directed “on to the whole population of North African origin who live in Corsica, of whom the great majority respect our values”.
There have previously been similar tensions on Corsica. In December, a crowd in Ajaccio vandalised a Muslim prayer room hall and trashed copies of the Koran following an assault on firefighters that was blamed on local young people of North African origin.
At the time, France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, condemned those responsible for attacking firefighters. He also said the “intolerable exactions” against the place of worship carried the “odour of racism and xenophobia” and would not go unpunished.
Last month, Corsican lawmakers called on the French government to close down radical mosques on the island, hours after an underground Corsican separatist movement issued a threat against Islamic extremists in the aftermath of the attack in Nice, where 85 people were killed when a lorry ploughed into a crowd celebrating Bastille day.
A splinter group of the nationalist National Liberation Front of Corsica had made a statement warning extremists that any attack on the island would trigger “a determined response, without any qualms”.
The burkini ban in Cannes was backed by a court on Saturday after two local Muslim associations took emergency legal action to have it repealed. The judge upheld the move, ruling that it was not disproportionate. The associations said they will appeal the court decision and a human rights group will also challenge the ban.
Near Cannes, the hardline mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet, Lionnel Luca, from Nicolas Sarkozy’s Les Républicains party, also banned the burkini, saying it was unhygienic to swim fully clothed.
– (Guardian News and Media)