French Police Create Propaganda for ISIS by Ticketing Muslim Women on Beaches
Robert Mackey, Intercept, Aug 25 2016
At a beach in Nice, the text of a bylaw was posted last week that bars women from wearing full-body swimsuits. Photo: Jean Christophe Magnenet/AFP/Getty)
Photographs and video of French police officers issuing tickets to Muslim women for violating new local ordinances that ban modest beachwear as an offense against “good morals and secularism” in more than a dozen towns along the Riviera, spread widely on social networks on Wednesday, prompting waves of outrage and mockery by opponents of the laws.
Just let this sink in. Men with guns forcing a women to undress, with the weight of the law behind them – Abdul-Azim ????
But the same images were greeted with undisguised glee by extremists eager to make the case that observant Muslims have no place in European countries. A series of photographs published by The Daily Mail, showing armed officers confronting a woman wearing a headscarf, leggings and a long-sleeved shirt on a beach in Nice on Tuesday, was hailed by the anti-Muslim, Dutch politician Geert Wilders.
David Thomson, a French journalist who tracks jihadist activity online, told Radio France that Islamic State sympathizers on social networks seemed surprised to find police officers in Nice “creating propaganda on their behalf,” by providing the perfect illustration of their case that France humiliates Muslims. Thomson said:
For them, this is a godsend. The Jihadi narrative has insisted for years that it is impossible for a Muslim to practice their religion with dignity in France. Within minutes of publication, these photographs became one of the most discussed topics in the online ‘Jihadosphere’. These shots of Nice will fuel years of Jihadi propaganda.
The irony, Thomson noted last week, is that the specific swimming costume the bans have targeted, the full-body swimsuit known as the “burkini,” is rejected as immodest by Islamist ideologues. Although the authorities in Nice confirmed that the incident reported by the Mail did take place, and that at least 23 other women have been ticketed there this week, and forced to pay 38-euro fines, or about $40, defenders of the so-called “burkini ban” accused the unnamed woman of taking part in a staged “provocation.” Jérémie Boulet, a member of the xenophobic National Front party, argued that the woman must have been trying to bait the authorities into approaching her by wearing such an outfit on a warm day. He also suggested, incorrectly, that she was not sitting on a towel when approached by the officers.
Christian Estrosi, a former mayor of Nice who is now the regional president of the Côte d’Azur, issued a statement on Wednesday in which he called the behavior of the two dozen women fined for their dress this week, “unacceptable provocations” intended to “undermine the city’s police officers.” Estrosi also warned people who share images of the police ticketing women on social networks that they could be prosecuted for endangering the officers. A French photo agency that acquired the rights to the images told Libération that the photographs were “certainly not staged, as some people have alleged,” and were the work of an unnamed freelancer “who happened to be on the beach at the time,” looking for images of the ban being enforced. He was about 100 meters away from the woman when he saw the officers approach and shot the encounter using a telephoto lens. The agency, Best Image, said in a statement:
The freelancer witnessed the scene, which took place at 11 a.m. on Tuesday and lasted roughly 10 minutes.“The woman was issued with a fine and left the beach a few minutes later. That is all the photographer was able to see.
Speculation that the officers could have been set up was fueled by the fact that the photographer’s name was not released, but the incident took place the same day that a French journalist, Mathilde Cusin, witnessed something worse: a woman in Cannes being fined by the police and harassed by on-lookers. That woman, a 34-year-old mother who gave her first name as Siam, told Agence France-Presse that she was given a ticket for sitting on the beach with her family, wearing a headscarf and leggings. “I had no intention of swimming,” she said. In an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, the woman said that she was baffled at first by the police officers who told her that beach-goers were obliged to “dress properly” according to a new ordinance. When she asked the officers what that meant she was told that she could only stay on the beach if she agreed to wrap her scarf into a headband. Siam told the magazine:
My children were crying, witnessing my humiliation. Even I could not help crying. They humiliated us.
During her standoff with the police, a crowd of onlookers gathered. Some of them defended the woman, arguing that she was causing no harm and was not even wearing a burkini. Others, however, taunted her with racist remarks. She said:
I was stunned. I heard things no one had ever said to my face, like ‘Go home!’
Siam, who was born to French parents in Toulouse, said that someone else added, “We are Catholics here!” Cusin told the magazine:
People demanded that she leave or remove her veil. It was pretty violent. I had the impression of watching a pack go after a woman sitting on the ground in tears with her little girl. What shocked me is that it was mostly people in their thirties, not the elderly as one might imagine.
Siam told Al Jazeera’s AJ+ later in a video interview:
In the country of human rights, I see no trace of the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. I am outraged that this could happen in France. Today we are banned from the beach. Tomorrow it will be the street. We are women. We are adults. And if the headscarf is a personal choice, and if women want to wear it, why stop them?