Islamic Court Bans Women From Mogadishu Beach

An Islamic court banned women from swimming at the main beach in the capital to keep women from mingling with men, an official said Friday.

The ban applies only to the northern Mogadishu Leedo beach, where families usually go on weekends.

"We stopped women from swimming because it is against the teaching of Islam for women to mingle with men, especially while they are swimming," said Sheikh Farah Ali Hussein, chair of a northern Mogadishu Islamic court.

Miriam Isse watched others swimming in the Indian Ocean Friday.

"They cannot prevent us from our right to swim in the sea," she said. "What is wrong with us enjoying ourselves like men? That is clear discrimination."

Somali women usually swim fully clothed. Somali men, however, swim in trunks, at times bare-chested or wearing vests.

Hard-line Islamic leaders' militia have swept through most of southern Somalia since taking over Mogadishu in June. Their sometimes strict and often severe interpretation of Islam has raised the specter of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime, and contrasts with the moderate Islam that has dominated Somali culture for centuries. They have introduced public executions and floggings of convicts.