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French Minister of Education announces ban on Islamic dress in schools – POLITICO

PARIS — French Education Minister Gabriel Attal announced on Sunday that France would ban the Islamic dress known as the abaya in schools.

“The school of the Republic was built around strong values, secularism is one of them. … When you walk into a classroom, you shouldn’t be able to identify the students’ religion,” Attal said in an interview with French television channel TF1.

“I announce that [pupils] I will no longer be able to wear the abaya to school,” he said.

The abaya is a long, flowing dress commonly worn by Muslim women as it conforms to Islamic beliefs about modest dress – but it is also worn by other communities in North Africa and the Middle East. In 2004, France banned religious symbols in schools, including large crosses, Jewish yarmulkes and Islamic headscarves. But the abaya occupies a gray area and has not been specifically banned.

Attal, appointed in July, said he would lead negotiations in the coming weeks before issuing new “clear nationwide rules” for schools.

The emphasis on abayas follows a rise in the number of girls wearing Islamic clothing in French schools, a trend that some say violates the country’s secular values. Last month, the President of the National Assembly Yaël Braun-Pivet, a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party, called for “a totally secular public school” where there is “neither Ramadan, nor abaya, nor signs ostentatious religious”.

While some politicians have been calling for new legislation banning religious clothing, it looks like the government will just give new guidelines to school principals.

Secularism in French schools has always been a hot topic, with proponents claiming that religion, and Islam in particular, encroaches on public space. Critics, on the other hand, argue that religious minorities face discrimination in a historically Christian country.

Tensions around education and religion escalated in 2020 when a radicalized Chechen refugee beheaded a French teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class.


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