Under the rules, swimmers — including non-Muslims — are barred from entering the pool in normal swimming attire. Instead they are told that they must comply with the “modest” code of dress required by Islamic custom, with women covered from the neck to the ankles and men, who swim separately, covered from the navel to the knees.
The phenomenon runs counter to developments in France, where last week a woman was evicted from a public pool for wearing a burkini — the headscarf, tunic and trouser outfit which allows Muslim women to preserve their modesty in the water.
But across the UK municipal pools are holding swimming sessions specifically aimed at Muslims, in some case imposing strict dress codes. Swimmers were told last week on the centre’s website that “during special Muslim sessions male costumes must cover the body from the navel to the knee and females must be covered from the neck to the ankles and wrists”.
Labour MP Anne Cryer, whose Keighley, West Yorkshire constituency has a large number of Muslims, said: “Unfortunately this kind of thing has a negative impact on community relations. It’s seen as yet another demand for special treatment. I can’t see why special clothing is needed for what is a single-sex session.”