Burkini-only event at French water park canceled

France outlawed wearing a burqa in public in 2011.

Story highlights

  • Mayor tells Muslim women's group not to hold burkini-only day at Marseille water park
  • The plans sparked outrage among some in France and organizers said they received threats

(CNN)A planned burkini-only day for Muslim women at a water park in France has been canceled by city officials after threats were sent to the event's organizers.

The scheduled event sparked outrage among some politicians and French citizens earlier this month because it was restricted to women wearing all-over swimming outfits often referred to as "burkinis."
    Smile 13, a women's community group, first posted the announcement about the event on its Facebook page, saying "the goal of the burkini is precisely not to tempt since it's a loose outfit."
    It added that "women wandering around in bikinis are more at risk for rape."
    The burkini day was due to be held next month at Speedwater Park in Les Pennes-Mirabeau, near Marseille, and was open to women and children, including boys under 10.
    However, the organizers said they received threats over the plans, including a letter with a picture of bullets.

    Concerns over public order

    In a joint statement issued Monday, the water park and city officials said the event "poses problems that go beyond the normal context of the activity of this park."
    "Neither Speedwater Park nor the City of Pennes-Mirabeau wish to be the scene of troubles of public order that would be generated by issues that go beyond their territorial activities. Indeed, extreme ideological positions are taking advantage of the polemic linked to this event to engage in conflicts which neither Speedwater Park nor the City of Pennes-Mirabeau wish to participate in.
    "In common agreement, Speedwater Park and the City of Pennes-Mirabeau have thus decided to not proceed with the request of the association Smile 13."
    The Islamic full-length swimming suit known as a burkini is shown here at a sports store in Dubai. Women invited to an event at a water park in Marseille were asked to wear the garment
    News of the cancellation came after Mélisa Thivet from Smile 13 told CNN Saturday that the group was "surprised by the magnitude of the reaction" to its original announcement about the event on Facebook.
    Thivet said group members "feel quite in danger" after a threatening letter, which included a picture of bullets, was received.

    Outpouring of racial hatred condemned

    In a later statement, relayed to CNN by Collectif Contre l'Islamophobie en France, an organization working against Islamophobia in France, Smile 13 representatives said: "We are sad and concerned to witness the outpouring of racist hatred, obscenities and threats aiming at us, as an organization but also as individuals."
    Stéphane Ravier, mayor of the 7th district of Marseille and member of the far-right Front National party, welcomed news that the "scandalous" event had been canceled.
    In a tweet, he described it as a "victory of the patriots."
    In April 2011, France became the first European country to ban wearing in public the burqa, a full-body covering that includes a mesh over the face, and the niqab, a full-face veil with an opening for the eyes.
    However, as the burkini day was planned as a private event, it would have been deemed legal.