French authorities ban ‘Abayas’ in schools

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French authorities have decided to ban the wearing of “Abayas” [Islamic hijab] in schools, calling it a violation of France’s strict secular laws.

France’s Education Minister Gabriel told TF1 television that it would no longer be possible to wear Abayas in schools, and said clear instructions would be issued to heads of schools at the national level when classes begin across the country from September 4.

The move comes after months of debate over wearing Abayas in French schools, where women have long been banned from wearing the Islamic hijab.

Right-wing and far-right activists had called for a ban, with the left saying the freedom of citizens would be violated.

There are reports that the trend of wearing Abayas in schools is increasing and there is a situation of tension between parents and teachers over the issue.

Describing Abaya as religious, Gabriel said secularism means freeing themselves through school, and said its purpose is to test the republic’s resistance to the secular sanctity that the school should create.

“When you enter a class, you should not be able to identify the religion of the students by looking at them,” it stated. According to the March 2024 law, school is prohibited from wearing clothes that show affiliation with a religion, including large crosses, Jewish caps and Islamic scarves.

However, Abaya has not yet faced a ban. The Ministry of Education issued a circular on the issue in November last year.

Mixed response:

Pop, a former education minister, responded by saying he did not want a catalogue to be published to clarify the length of the dress.

At least one union leader, Bruno Babkiewicz, welcomed Gabriel’s announcement.

Right-wing Clementine Otten, who belongs to the opposition party, condemned it, calling it a “clothing policy”.

He said Gabriel’s announcement was “unconstitutional” and against the basic tenets of secular France, adding that it was a sign of the government’s “rejection of Muslims”.