France bans Muslim students from wearing abayas in schools
France is banning girls from wearing abayas and boys from wearing qamis at state schools in a move that is controversial.
The step, coming as the new school year begins, was decreed by France’s new Education Minister Gabriel Attal, although French law imposes a strict separation between the state and religion.
The abaya is a full-length garment traditionally worn by women in Muslim countries.
The qamis is the counterpart for boys.
It is based on a long-standing ban on visible religious symbols in schools in France amid ongoing efforts to promote secularism.
Attal said the number violations of secularism rules at schools have significantly increased over the past few months, often involving abayas.
The ban comes after extensive debate in France as to whether the abaya is a religious symbol or an ordinary garment.
“Religious symbols have no place in school,” President Emmanuel Macron said a week ago.
He said heads of schools should not be stuck having to decide on the matter themselves.
An association for the protection of Muslims’ rights has already filed a complaint with the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court.
It is estimated that between 3.5 million and six million Muslims live France, a country of 67 million.
The public display of symbols seen as religious has repeatedly provoked controversy, in particular where Islam is concerned.
In 1994, a law was passed that allowed only discreet religious symbols in schools.
Ten years later, the donning of headscarves was completely banned in schools, along with the kippa and large crosses.
In 2010, the ban on full-face veils in public followed.