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Shaken by extremism, Nice joins growing list of French towns in burka swimsuit ban

In this Aug.4 2016 photo made from video, Nissrine Samali, 20, gets into the sea wearing traditional Islamic dress, in Marseille, southern France. 

AP

PARIS — The city of Nice, still shaken by last month’s deadly extremist attack, has joined a growing number of French resort towns to ban the body-covering burkini swimsuit.

Political leaders argue that the swimwear, resembling a full-body wetsuit with a hood, oppresses women and violates France’s secular principles. But opponents say the ban is discriminatory, arbitrary and alienating to France’s significant Muslim community.

Nice was devastated when a man drove a truck into crowds watching fireworks on July 14, killing 86 people in violence claimed by the Islamic State group. The death of the 86th victim, a man hospitalized with injuries, was announced on Friday, more than a month after the attack.

About a third of the victims were from Nice’s large Muslim community, which is both in mourning and fearing a backlash.

The Nice administration issued an order Thursday banning swimwear with religious connotations, citing security concerns.

Several other cities on France’s Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts have banned burkinis this summer. 

Cannes Mayor David Lisnard issued an ordinance in late July forbidding beachwear that doesn’t respect “good morals and secularism.” The ordinance notes that swimwear “manifesting religious affiliation in an ostentatious way, while France and its religious sites are currently the target of terrorist attacks, could create risks of trouble to public order.”

French law forbids face-covering veils anywhere in public and headscarves in public schools.

Critics say that the laws targeting conservative attire have deepened France’s religious divide, and that extremists cite the laws as justification for attacks.