Skip to main site content.
A screen shot showing Zeynab Alshelh being purportedly kicked off a French beach by locals for wearing a burqini.

Sleight of hand?

Footage of woman in burqini being ‘kicked off’ French beach not what it seems, locals say

By WITW Staff on September 23, 2016

Last week, a story about a 23-year-old Australian Muslim woman who traveled to the French Riviera, camera crew in tow, and wore a burqini on a beach where the swimwear had briefly been banned in a bid to “show solidarity with local Muslims,” garnered global attention. A short video clip showing what unfolded went viral. Headlines around the world screamed, “Sydney burqini bather forced off French beach,” and “Australian woman ‘kicked off French beach’ for wearing a burqini,” and “The moment a Muslim woman is threatened for wearing a burkini,” to name a few. Indeed, Zeynab Alshelh, the woman featured in the piece, said on video she was “threatened” by beachgoers.

But that’s not what really happened, say locals who were on the beach that day, according to a report by French newspaper Nice-Matin. According to the paper, those who witnessed the incident said what ended up being aired on Australian TV, and shared on social media around the world, was a “complete fabrication.” According to a Google translation of the Nice-Matin report, one witness said that at no time did anyone ask the women wearing burqinis to leave the beach. Their objections were to the prying eyes of the camera crew, said one witness, who added that people voiced concerns to the camera crew about their presence at the beach. “That is also why all the people on the beach were looking toward the camera,” the witness said. Locals on the beach that day say the final product was the result of manipulative editing by the TV producers.

Others told the paper that the man seen in the video talking on a cellphone did indeed call the police — not to report the women for wearing burqinis, “but to ask how we could prevent the camera from filming us, especially our children.”

Neither Alshelh or her TV crew has been reached for comment yet to address the claims. But Emma-Kate Symons, in a column for The Australian, argues that the viral nature of the “manipulation” is the “latest example of calculated French-bashing fueled by collusion between the goals of political Islam and compliant media outlets seeking culture clash cliches.”

Watch the clip that initially went viral last week below.


Read the full story at Nice-Matin.

Corsica court upholds French burqini ban, defying higher court

French PM comes out swinging in burqini debate: ‘It is a provocation of radical Islam’

While France frets over burqinis, Chinese women have been wearing ‘facekinis’ without issue for years