Social media users sharing photos of the controversial ban on burkinis, a modest swimsuit modeled after a traditional Muslim dress, were threatened with a lawsuit earlier this week — but the internet appears to have gotten the last laugh on the issue after the courts repealed the ban. After the public outrage over the law, France’s highest administrative court said today that the laws “insulted fundamental freedoms.”
After photographs of police in Nice, France showed officials forcing a woman to remove the traditional swimsuit for Muslim women, called a burkini, the deputy mayor announced that anyone posting such photos would be sued. Earlier this month, Nice became one of 25 French towns banning the Islamic swimsuit, actions taken after multiple terrorist attacks, including the Bastille Day attack that killed 86 people. According to the law, the burkini “overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks.”
Burkinis cover everything from the ankles to the hair, and for some women, the swimwear is a sign of modesty and faith. While the burkini is the latest targeted apparel, it’s not the only religious symbol to be banned in France. According to the Daily Mail, in 2010, France banned all face coverings in public “except under specified circumstances,” including the burqa that the burkini is modeled after.
The ban understandably sparked a huge reaction, with many saying that the law discriminates against both Muslims as well as women.
After a photojournalist took images of four policemen in Nice forcing a woman to remove her burkini, the images quickly spread — and not in a way that reflected positively on Nice’s police. The 34-year-old, a mother of two, said she was also fined for wearing a similar outfit on a beach in Cannes.
With the backlash stemming from those photographs, Nice Deputy Mayor Christian Estrosi released a statement saying that the city would sue people who posted (not took) photographs of the police enforcing the burkini ban.
According to Numerama, the French don’t have any laws that would prevent anyone from photographing the police, which could theoretically make any lawsuits difficult for Nice to pursue. Taking legal action against those who spread the photos becomes even trickier now that the ban has been removed entirely and labeled as a violation of basic freedoms. Still, the threats raised even more of a public outcry both in connection with the original issue and the subsequent attempt to keep the photos from spreading.
The announcement covered photos of the police enforcing the ban, not the numerous other images popping up in the backlash, like these:
— OccPal-Gaza (@OccPalGaza) August 24, 2016
— Ann Telnaes (@AnnTelnaes) August 25, 2016
— AminaMWRC (@AminaMWRC) August 25, 2016
According to some reports, a few lawsuits have already been filed. Several links to the Twitter backlash on the police photos no longer appear to work, but that didn’t stop new #Burkiniban posts from popping up either.