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Tobin Harshaw

The Serious Purpose Behind France's Silly Burkini Ban

France's ideal of secularism is reviled. But its more flexible neighbors have done no better in assimilating Muslim immigrants.
Not exactly Brigitte Bardot.

Not exactly Brigitte Bardot.

Photographer: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images)

French beaches have never been a place for modesty, at least not since a 17-year-old Brigitte Bardot scandalized the film world in 1952's "Manina, the Girl in the Bikini." But this summer, at an increasing number of resort towns, Muslim women are finding out just how serious the French are about bare skin on the sand.

Last week, Nice became the latest of more than a dozen vacation destinations to ban the wearing of a full-body-covering swimsuit -- known cheekily as the burkini. The city, still reeling from the Bastille Day truck attack that killed 86, will fine women 38 euros for failing to wear "an outfit respecting good morals and secularism." National figures have joined the cause, like Manuel Valls, the tough-talking prime minister, and National Front leader Marine Le Pen, never one to let a controversy go unexploited.