Outrage over swim class for Muslim women

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Swimming pool photo: Shutterstock
16:10 CEST+02:00
A sports centre in Sesto, northern Italy, will in January offer a swimming course specially designed for Muslim women, a decision that has sparked outrage from a right-wing political party.

The swimming course, which was proposed by town’s Islamic Centre, will take place between January 19th and April 20th next year and is aimed at bringing women of the same faith together, Corriere della Sera reported.

Both Muslim and non-Muslims women will be allowed to join.

While the burkini is not obligatory, Muslim women are requested to wear wet suits with sleeves and knee-length shorts as well as a swimming cap. The instructors will all be female.

The proposal was welcomed by the Geas sports association in Sesto, which described the initiative as “an important moment for integration”.

But others have accused organizers of promoting outdated traditions from other countries which were abandoned in Italy in the 1960s and 70s, such as separate bathing areas for men and women.

“It’s a classic example of reverse discrimination,” Viviana Beccalossi, Urban and Regional Councillor for Lombardy and head of the right-wing Brothers of Italy – National Alliance party.

“If discrimination is the result of respect for the observance of Islamic rules then anything goes. Otherwise we are accused of racism. After asking us to remove crucifixes from public places, to remove the nativity scene from schools and after cases occurring in many hospitals with some women refusing to be examined by male doctors, now it’s the swimming pool. Who knows what will happen next.”

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This isn’t the first time that efforts to integrate Muslims at swimming pools has been criticized by right-wing groups.

In May this year members of the far-right Forza Nuova party marched on a Venice swimming pool to protest a time slot for Muslim women.  

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