France's highest administrative court is considering whether it's legal for towns to ban body-covering burkini swimsuits, which have become a symbol of tensions around the place of Islam in secular France.

After human rights groups challenged a local burkini ban, the Council of State is scheduled to issue a ruling Friday afternoon.

At a hearing Thursday, lawyers for the rights groups argued that the bans are feeding fear and infringe on basic freedom. Mayors who have banned burkinis cite concern about public order after deadly Islamic extremist attacks this summer, and many officials argue that burkinis oppress women.

The bans have divided France's government and society and drawn anger abroad, especially after images circulated online showing police appearing to force a Muslim woman to take off her tunic.