Burkini clash sets tone for France’s presidential campaign

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Protesters demonstrate against France's ban of the burkini, outside the French Embassy in London, Britain August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall - RTX2N0JG

Protesters demonstrate against France’s ban of the burkini, outside the French Embassy in London, Britain August 25, 2016. Photo by Neil Hall/Reuters

PARIS — The national identity crisis exposed by France’s burkini controversy is threatening to set the tone for the country’s presidential campaign.

A top court ruling Friday against banning the head-to-ankle swimwear didn’t put an end to the debate.

Along with the economy, the relationship between France’s Muslims and non-Muslims has been a recurring theme as presidential hopefuls kick off campaigning for the April-May elections.

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy told a campaign rally he wants a national law banning burkinis.

His chief rival for the conservative nomination, Alain Juppe, has called for a special accord between the state and Muslim leaders to lay out clear rules for respecting French secularism.

Some leftist candidates have criticized the burkini as oppressing women, but say the far right is using the issue to encourage racism.

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