A water park near the French city of Marseilles has cancelled plans to host a one-day private event for Muslim women wearing burkinis, full-body swimsuits.

Water park officials and French authorities said on Tuesday that the decision to cancel the September 10 event was taken to preserve public order following outrage and debate sparked over the plan.

"Neither Speedwater Park nor the town of Pennes-Mirabeau [a Marseilles suburb] wish to be the site of public disorder," they said in a joint statement. 

"Extreme ideological positions are taking advantage of the controversy over this event to address conflicts in which Speedwater Park and the city of Pennes-Mirabeau do not wish to be involved," the statement said.

Politicians on both the right and the left slammed the plan as provocative, with left-wing senator Michel Amiel, the mayor of Pennes-Mirabeau, saying he would seek a ban.


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The event was booked by Smile 13, a women's association catering for Arabs in the southern port city, whose population of nearly two million includes around 220,000 Muslims.

The association said on its Facebook page that it was "stunned and saddened" by the extent of the controversy.

It said that it had received threats, including bullets sent to it in the mail, and had informed the Collective against Islamophobia in France.

Islamic dress is a hot-button issue in France, where the full-face veil is banned in public places.

Source: Agencies