France’s ban on abaya robes in schools draws both applause and criticism

Newly appointed French Education Minister Gabriel Attal arrives to attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 21, 2023, after a government reshuffle. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes Get license rights

  • Secularism is an important topic in France
  • In 2004, France banned the veil in schools
  • The education minister announced the ban on the abaya on Sunday
  • The move drew mixed reactions

PARIS, Aug 28 (Reuters) – A French government decision to ban the abaya, the loose, full-length robes worn by some Muslim girls in state-run schools, drew applause from the right on Monday. Review.

France has enforced a ban on religious symbols in public schools since 2004, perpetuating its strict brand of secularism, known as “lawyside”. A topic that continues to fuel political tension in the country is an important one.

“Our schools are constantly under scrutiny, and violations of licit have increased significantly in the past months, with (students) wearing religious clothing such as abayas and kameez,” Education Minister Gabriel Attal said at a news conference to explain the ban on Sunday.

Eric Ciotti, leader of the conservative Les Republicains party, was quick to welcome the move, which he said was long overdue.

The SNPDEN-UNSA union of school principals welcomed the decision, saying above all it wanted clarity from the government, its national secretary Didier Georges told Reuters.

“What we want from ministers is: ‘Yes or no?'” Georges said of Abaya. “We are satisfied that a decision has been made.”

But many on the left criticized the move, including ClĂ©mentine Audain, an MP for the hard-left France Insumais, who criticized what he called the “clothes police” and “characteristic of a fanatical rejection of Muslims”.

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Some academics agreed that the move could be counterintuitive, and said it touched on clothing, which they said was worn for fashion or identity rather than religion.

“It’s going to hurt Muslims in general. They’re going to be stigmatized again,” said Agnes de Feo, a sociologist who has spent the past decade researching niqab wearing by French women.

“It’s really a shame because people judge these young women, while it (the abaya) is a teenage expression without consequences.”

‘It’s a casual outfit’

Twenty-two-year-old Digennot wears an abaya at home, and she can’t understand why it’s banned.

“It’s a long dress, very loose, it’s a casual dress with no religious meaning attached to it,” she told Reuters. She declined to give her name as she was training to become a teacher.

In 2004, France banned the veil in schools and in 2010 banned the full face in public, angering some in its more than five million Muslim community and prompting the creation of private Muslim schools, De Feo said.

A year ago, Atal’s predecessor, Bob Ndiaye, said he was against banning the abaya, saying, “Defining the abaya is not easy. “.

Dawud Rifi, who teaches Islamic studies at the Lille Institute of Political Studies, agreed. “There is no such thing as Islamic dress. We have to challenge that myth,” he told Reuters.

Rifi said there is a broader fashion trend among female high school students who buy long dresses and kimonos online.

Both Riffey and De Feo said that distinguishing between fashion and religion can lead to students being profiled based on their identity.

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Reporting by Juliet Zapkiro, Nomi Olive, Tassilo Hummel, Bertrand Poussi, Ingrid MĂ©lander; Written by Juliet Zapgro Editing by Nick MacPhee, Ingrid Melander

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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