France to ban wearing of abayas by Muslim women in schools: Education minister Gabriel Attal

French education minister Gabriel Attal said on Sunday that the authorities will ban the wearing of abaya dresses by Muslim women in schools, according to a report by AFP.

He argued that the garment violates France’s strict secular laws in education.

“It will no longer be possible to wear an abaya at school,” Education Minister Gabriel Attal told TF1 television, as per the report.

The development comes after months of debate over the wearing of abayas in French schools, where women have long been banned from wearing the Islamic headscarf.

Abaya is a long, baggy garment worn to comply with Islamic beliefs on modest dress.

Attal said he would give “clear rules at the national level” to school heads ahead of the return to classes nationwide from September 4.

According to media reports, there have been reports of tensions within schools over abayas between teachers and parents.

“Secularism means the freedom to emancipate oneself through school,” said the AFP report quoting Attal.

The French education minister has described the abaya as “a religious gesture, aimed at testing the resistance of the republic toward the secular sanctuary that school must constitute.”

“You enter a classroom, you must not be able to identify the religion of the students by looking at them.”

In March 2004, the French law had banned “the wearing of signs or outfits by which students ostensibly show a religious affiliation” in schools. This includes large crosses, Jewish kippas and Islamic headscarves.

As per the AFP report, the CFCM, a national body encompassing many Muslim associations, has said items of clothing alone were not “a religious sign”.

In 2020, a radicalised Chechen refugee beheaded teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown students caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, near his school in a Paris suburb.

The announcement by 34-year-old Attal is the first big move, since he was promoted this summer  as education minister.

(With inputs from AFP)

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Updated: 28 Aug 2023, 02:09 AM IST

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