France to ban Islamic abaya dresses in state schools

France has announced a ban on the wearing of abaya dresses by Muslim women in schools, according to Education Minister Gabriel Attal.

France has announced a ban on the wearing of abaya dresses by Muslim women in schools, according to Education Minister Gabriel Attal. The ban is being imposed because authorities believe that the abaya goes against France’s strict secular laws in education.

Education Minister Attal made it clear that “wearing an abaya at school will no longer be allowed.” He added that he would provide clear guidelines to school officials across the nation ahead of the return to school on September 4.

This decision comes after months of discussions about whether abayas should be allowed in French schools, where the wearing of Islamic headscarves by women has long been prohibited. Those on the political right and far-right supported the ban, while those on the left argued that it could infringe on civil liberties.

There have been reports of more students wearing abayas in schools, leading to tensions between teachers and parents.

Attal defended the ban by stating, “Secularism means that students should be free to learn in a non-religious environment.” He described the abaya as “a religious symbol that tests the secular nature of our schools, which should be free from religious influence.”

He emphasised that when students enter a classroom, their religion should not be obvious just by looking at their clothing.

The ban aligns with a law from March 2004 that prohibits “students from wearing clothing or accessories that visibly display their religious affiliation” in schools. This includes items like large crosses, Jewish kippas, and Islamic headscarves.

Unlike headscarves, abayas – which are long, loose-fitting garments worn for modesty in line with Islamic beliefs – were in a gray area legally and had not faced an outright ban until now. However, the Education Ministry had issued a circular on this issue in November of the previous year. This circular categorised abayas as one of several types of clothing that could be banned if they were “worn in a way that openly displayed a religious affiliation.” Bandanas and long skirts were also included in this category.

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