VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
August 26, 2016

Human rights activists in Europe rejoiced Friday after France’s highest court suspended the so-called burkini ban. While the ruling applies only to the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, the decision is expected to set a precedent throughout the country.

The ban on certain kinds of modest swimwear worn by some Muslim women "seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms to come and go, freedom of beliefs and individual freedom," part of the ruling read.

The seaside getaway was one of 30 cities and towns across France, including Cannes and Nice, which had instituted similar restrictions barring what their mayors deemed symbols of Islamic extremism.

The restriction on swimwear came in the wake of a series of Islamic extremist attacks that terrorized the country in the past two years. Between a massacre at the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, a coordinated assault on Parisian nightlife in November 2015 and a lorry attack in Nice in July, more than 200 French people have lost their lives to terrorism in the past 20 months.

French mayors had banned the swimwear in the name of “laicité,” a dogmatic form of secularism that has long been a tenet of the French political way of life. In 2011 France became the first European country to ban the burka, the niqab and other full face and body coverings worn by some Muslim women.

“I’m relieved with the decision of the highest court,” Samia Hathroubi, a French-Tunisian activist from the Foundation of Ethnic Understanding, told Travel + Leisure.

“It’s good to feel that we live in a country of rights and not in a kind of ayatollah, laicité dictatorship,” she said.

Jess McHugh is a digital reporter for Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @MchughJess.

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