news5s54f54fs54fsPresident Francois Hollande insisted Thursday that France’s strict laws separating church and state did not mean the country’s large Muslim minority could not practice their religion.

In a speech on terrorism and democracy coming hot on the heels of a debate on the banning of the Islamic burkini swimsuit, Hollande said: “Nothing in the idea of secularism opposes the practice of Islam in France, provided it respects the law.”

A French court overturned a ban last week on burkinis issued in Cannes – the first in a series of local bans on the Muslim full-body swimwear this summer that set off a heated controversy at home and a wave of outrage abroad.

The court in Nice concluded that the Cannes decree violates basic freedoms and is illegal because there were no proven risks of disruption to public order, or reasons of hygiene or decency for the ban in the famous Riviera city resort.

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