The burkini is the world’s most controversial swimwear. With full-length arms and legs and a head covering, it’s favoured by beach-going Muslim women around the world.
But while far from revealing, it is incredibly provocative, particularly in France, where it was banned on 30 beaches as a knee-jerk response to the rise in Islamic extremism.
Outraged by such blatant discrimination, Zeynab Alshelh, 23, a medical student from Sydney, packed her burkini and flew to France to show solidarity with the country’s Muslim women. But although the ban was recently lifted by the country’s highest administrative court, the backlash from locals was swift.
As shown on Channel 7’s Sunday Night programme, it was only a matter of minutes before Alshelh and her mother were approached by locals who made rude comments, told them to leave and even threatened to call police.
For her, such a reaction represents more than casual racism – it’s “dangerous”.
“It starts off at the beach and God knows where it ends,” Alshelh said.
“It’s hard to be proud of a country who rejects you and whose laws allow the general public to discriminate against you. It’s really difficult.”
Alshelh on a French Riveria beach. Image: Channel 7.
Dozens of beachfront resorts temporarily banned the swimwear in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in Nice earlier this year - a decision that attracted headlines around the world. It was the latest in a series of regulations on overtly Islamic clothing in the country, and followed on from a complete, nation-wide ban of the burqa in 2010.