On Sunday, the women visited the Jean Bron swimming pool in the city of Grenoble in a protest inspired by civil rights activist Rosa Parks to bathe in suits which cover the majority of their bodies, apart from their faces, hands and feet.
The swimming pool is one of several public locations that bans burkinis, which are a type of modesty swimsuit for women.
According to a Facebook page posted by the organisation, seven women wore burkinis at the pool and they were joined by 30 supporters.
— AllianceCitoyenne (@alliancecitoyen)June 23, 2019
In video footage shared of the protest on social media, several of the women dressed in the apparel can be seen singing, applauding and chanting in the pool.
According to news outlet France Bleu, the protesters spent an hour in the pool and were later questioned by police. They were also fined €35 (£30) for breaking the pool’s rules.
In the Facebook post, the Citizen Alliance explained that the protest was part of a campaign launched in May 2018 with a petition signed by more than 600 Muslim women calling on Éric Piolle, Genoble’s mayor, to reform the rules governing public swimming pools.
Taous Hammouti, a supporter of the protest, said that many Muslim women’s children are punished as a result of the ban because their mothers are unable to access the pool if they wear burkinis.
Quoting Martin Luther King’s words “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’” in the post, Hammouti added that “power needs to be challenged”.
Matthieu Chamussy, a member of France’s centre-right party The Republicans, responded to the protest, calling on Piolle to take action.
“Political Islam is moving forward step by step and the cause of women receding. @EricPiolle what are you going to do?” he tweeted following the protest.
Nouvelle intrusion en maillot couvrant à #Grenoble. Action coup de poing menée ce jour à la piscine Jean Bron. Le règlement municipal n’est plus appliqué, l’islamisme politique avance pas à pas, la cause des femmes recule. @EricPiolle que faites-vous? pic.twitter.com/CsOuxS05QC— Matthieu Chamussy (@m_chamussy)June 23, 2019
The Citizen Alliance of Grenoble’s actions have divided opinion on Twitter.
One user wrote that when a state violates the basic freedom of women to dress as they want, under the guise of community values, “then civil disobedience becomes legitimate”.
Quand un État viole la liberté fondamentale des femmes de se vêtir comme elle veut, sous prétexte de valeurs communautaires et non universelles.
Alors la désobéissance civile devient légitime. #burkini #LiberteEgaliteFraternite#Grenoble https://t.co/FHpepPWcBc— 𝙺𝚞𝚗𝚝𝚊 𝙺𝚒𝚗𝚝𝚎 🇸🇳🇫🇷🇵🇸 (@Kunta_Kinte221)June 24, 2019
However, others have criticised the wearing of burkinis in public swimming pools.
“The #Burkini has no place in France where women are equal to men,” wrote one user.
Le #Burkini n’a pas sa place en France où la femme est l’égale de l’homme.
Laisser faire ces activistes islamistes à #Grenoble comme partout en France c’est renoncer à la République.
Je ne l’accepterai jamais. pic.twitter.com/RodENVqcwO— Eric Ciotti (@ECiotti)June 24, 2019
Another added: “As an Algerian student, I think the #burkini has no place in the French Republic, and the Muslim community must respect the laws of this country.”
— lamama ⵣ (@Arkamomar2)June 24, 2019
In 2010, France outlawed citizens wearing any form of face covering in public, effectively banning the niqab, a veil worn by a small minority of Muslim women which leaves only the eyes visible.
Last year, the ban was deemed an infringement of human rights in a landmark United Nations ruling.
The UN said it had upheld two complaints made against the French government’s policy of fining women for wearing full-face veils after determining it violated their individual rights.