LONDON: London mayor Sadiq Khan has joined other protesters in the British capital to condemn the 'burkini' ban in France, saying no one should dictate women what they can and can't wear.
"Full stop. It's as simple as that.
"I don't think it's right. I'm not saying we're perfect yet, but one of the joys of London is that we don't simply tolerate difference, we respect it, we embrace it, and we celebrate it," said the city's first Muslim mayor yesterday during a visit to Paris to meet his counterpart Anne Hidalgo.
He was reacting to France's decision to ban the so-called 'burkini' – a term combining burqa and bikini to refer to fully covered beachwear worn by Muslim women.
"I'm quite firm on this. I don't think anyone should tell women what they can and can't wear. Full stop. It's as simple as that," he said.
Khan's comments came on the same day when around 40 Londoners organised an impromptu "beach party" outside the French embassy in central London to protest against parts of France imposing a ban on burkinis as clothing that could provoke violence.
"A lot of women wear it by choice. If the burkini enables women to go and sit on the beach and enjoy the sunshine, surely that should be encouraged. It helps ensure these women are no longer on the margins," said a campaigner for Citizens UK, organisers of the protest.
The London protests follow photographs earlier this week showing four male police officers armed with handguns, batons and pepper spray forcing a woman on a beach in Nice to remove what they suspected to be a burkini.
Cannes, Nice and about 15 other areas of the France Riviera have outlawed the clothing.
The ban order issued by local mayors refers to clothing that "overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks".
Lawyers for the French Human Rights League have argued the ban is illegal and have challenged it in court.
However, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy today launched his presidential campaign by calling for a complete ban on the burkini all across France.
"I refuse to let the burkini impose itself at French beaches and swimming pools... there must be a law to ban it throughout the Republic's territory," he said to thunderous applause in Provence in the first big speech of his campaign to win back the office he lost in 2012.
"Where is the authority when it is the minorities who govern? Never before has so much been ceded to them," said the 61-year-old, who had declared his candidacy earlier this week.