The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has stoked the fierce debate over the burkini by saying that naked breasts are more representative of the country than a headscarf.
French Revolution historian, Mathilde Larrere ridiculed Valls for using the iconic figure as a metaphor for his opinion, adding the image of Marianne, painted by Eugène Delacroix was not a symbol of the republic but was a symbol of freedom instead. Socialist Benoit Hamon accused Valls of "doing much to divide the country this summer", while hard-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon said "there is no need to be naked to be Marianne".
'She is not veiled, because she is free! "That is the republic!"
A French court has overturned a ban 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 overseas.
Some 30 French municipalities had banned access to public beaches "by anyone not wearing proper attire, which is respectful of good morality and the principle of secularism and not respectful of the rules of hygiene and bathing security" - meaning more revealing swimsuits. "Marianne is an allegory of the Republic, not of woman", told the British newspaper.
France already has a ban on the full-face veil, which politicians have endorsed for different reasons.
In a ruling welcomed by the United Nations and French Muslims, the court had ruled that local authorities could only introduce measures restricting individual freedoms if wearing the swimsuit on beaches represented a "proven risk" to public order. Valls is a strong supporter of a ban and has even clashed with his own cabinet over the Muslim swimsuits.
He also decried that "the manner in which the anti-burkini decrees have been implemented in some French resorts has been humiliating and degrading".
The Nice Administrative Court made the decision to suspend the swimwear ban, which had been in place since August 19.
Although Mr. Valls clearly meant to draw parallels with the conservative all-in-one burkini garment, which covers women from head to ankle and is seen by many as a symbol of Islamic oppression of women, the Prime Minister has been widely mocked for his statement.
However, when the former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy was asked whether such a ban would be unconstitutional, the leader said, "Well, then we change the constitution".
Mr Colville said the bans "fuel religious intolerance and the stigmatisation of Muslims", and "have only succeeded in increasing tensions".