French Burkini ban ‘is like Nazi humiliation’ claims leading rabbi


The rabbi of one of Britain’s largest congregations has compared the French clampdown on burkinis to the humiliations inflicted by Nazis on Jews.

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, of Finchley Synagogue in north London, condemned the ban on swimwear designed to comply with Islamic standards of modest dress for women.

Rabbi Lawrence said: “It cannot be for the state to require women to conform to a state of undress, nor to force an individual to appear in a manner he or she considers immodest.

“The footage of a modest woman being compelled to remove her clothing on the beach in front of onlookers evoked imagery of humiliations meted out by Nazis; the forced shavings of beards and peyot.”

Earlier this week an estimated 30 French towns had imposed a ban on women wearing burkinis, but on Friday France's highest administrative court suspended the ban in one town, Villeneuve-Loubet. The suspension could set a precedent for other French towns, while the court is yet make a final decision on the legality of the bans.

Rabbi Lawrence said the actions of the authorities in France were a “far, far stretch from a supposed ‘right’ of secular society to be able to go about its business without seeing symbols or cultural clothing of religion.

“If we prevent the wearing of a crucifix or a kippah because these ‘offend’, then where do we stop?

“If a necklace is a problem, what of the crucifixes on church steeples? Are they to be dismantled? Is that not a short step to the destruction of ancient tombs of and idolatrous temples, the vandalism of heritage in Palmyra?

“Of course there is no such ‘right’ and asserting the right to see no religion is as bigoted as asserting the right to see no religion but mine.”

Rabbi Lawrence described as offensive and outrageous “the banning of religious and modest dress, the forced humiliation and undressing of religious women, the suggestion that Muslims are unwelcome on beaches, the abuse of legislation and police powers to intimidate the peaceful freedoms of religious individuals to come and go, to bask and bathe”.

It flew against all decency, he said, and was “shameful in a modern state born as a champion of liberty and equality.”
Earlier this week the Board of Deputies said it was concerned by the scenes of a Muslim woman being confronted by police on a beach in France.

A spokesman said: “As we wrote in our 2015 General Election Jewish Manifesto, ‘wherever there is not some compelling reason – such as the infringement of the rights of others, or some demonstrable safety hazard – it is important that people of different faiths be allowed to manifest their beliefs through their dress’.”

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