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Former U.S. Counterterrorism Chief Criticizes French Burkini Ban

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Michael Leiter, former director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, said French bans on full-body burkini swimsuits will cause a division in the country, making it more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

“I think it certainly really can cause a schism, and schism is exactly what ISIS will look to take advantage of,” Leiter told ABC’s Martha Raddatz, who asked about the effects the burkini ban would have on France.

More than 20 French towns have sought to ban Muslim women from wearing the full-body swimsuit, with the mayor of Cannes saying burkinis are a dangerous “symbol of Islamic extremism.”

Leiter said the burkini ban would further alienate Muslims in France.

“Banning the burkini doesn’t produce terrorists. But it does make the people who are already alienated, who are already disenfranchised, I many cases, economically disenfranchised in a place like France in many of those neighborhoods, and make them say, Ah, ISIS’s message is true and real,” he said.

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Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com