By Ishaan Tharoor
Last month, a series of local bans enacted by French mayors on the wearing of “burkinis” — a type of body-covering Islamic swimwear — generated global furor. Images of armed French police forcing a burkini-clad woman to partially disrobe on a beach outraged observers elsewhere. The whole thing, critics argued, smacked of hypocrisy and sexism.
A top French court ultimately ruled that the bans constituted an insult to “fundamental freedoms,” but a majority of people in the country — as well as in other major Western European nations — still support such measures. At the head of the pack is French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who has been conspicuous in his defense of these controversial bans and indignant at criticism from fellow Westerners.
This week, Valls penned an op-ed that was published in the Huffington Post, taking exception to an earlier story in the New York Times that featured the voices of Muslim French women speaking out against the bans and what they perceived as anti-Muslim discrimination and prejudice within France.
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