Women protest burkini ban in front of French Embassy in London
Brandishing beach balls, towels and inflatables, around 50 people protested against the burkini ban in France Thursday by creating a fake beach outside the country's embassy in London.
After demonstrators spread sand on the pavement outside the embassy, a woman in a burkini and a child sat playing in it. Others wore bikinis as traditional French accordion music played in the background.
Protestors carried placards with slogans such as "Burkini ban is racist" and "Islamophobia is not freedom".
Many spoke of their shock at a photograph widely published by British media this week which showed a headscarved woman, surrounded by police on a beach in Nice in the south of France, who had to remove a top garment.
Dozens of French towns and villages have banned beachwear that "conspicuously" shows a person's religion -- aimed at the full-body Islamic swimsuit but which has also been used against women wearing long clothes and a headscarf.
France's predominant argument is that the burkini violates France's century-old commitment to promote secularism in public life. The first article of the French constitution enshrines this principle, while polls show French people are among the least religious in the world.
France repeatedly has cited this secularist agenda when targeting Muslim practices that are seen to push religion too far into mainstream society.
But critics say the anti-burkini crusade reflects a far right, anti-Muslim agenda that could prove to be a vote-winner in France's 2017 presidential election.