Sunbather attacked in French park for wearing bikini

A social media backlash erupted when a young woman sunbathing in a bikini in a French park was beaten up by a gang of young women some say were Muslims.

The unidentified victim, 21, was sunbathing with two friends in a park in Reims, in northern France Wednesday when the women were approached by five females -- ages 16 to 24. One of the five women verbally abused the victim for “immorally” exposing so much flesh in a public place. When the victim yelled back, the other girls and young women surrounded her and slapped and punched her, police said.

Witnesses intervened before the victim was seriously hurt, but she suffered bruises in the incident.

The five suspects were arrested, but have not been identified by police. Authorities said they all lived in housing complexes with large Muslim populations, British newspaper The Independent reported Monday.

When news of the attack spread, hundreds across France responded to a Twitter appeal by an anti-racist organization called SOS Racisme to post images of themselves wearing skimpy bathing suits in public spaces, using the hashtag #jeportemonmaillotauparc, which means “I wear my swimsuit in the park.”

Reims Police told L’Union newspaper that the victim was not able to say whether her assailants were motivated by “religious opinions.”

Far-right bloggers used the attack as an example of an alleged radical Islamic threat to French values, the Independent reported.

“We have to be very careful not to jump to conclusions. All the same, I can understand why people have assumed that this attack had religious motives. If that turns out to be the case, it is a very serious incident,” Arnaud Robinet, the mayor of Reims, said.