| 5 March 2024, Tuesday |

France to ban Muslim abaya dress in state schools

The abaya, the loose-fitting, full-length gowns worn by certain Muslim women, will be prohibited at state-run schools, France’s education minister announced on Sunday, ahead of the start of the school year.

France has failed to update norms to deal with a rising Muslim minority, while enforcing a stringent prohibition on religious signage in state schools since 19th century regulations eradicated any traditional Catholic influence from public education.

It outlawed headscarves in schools in 2004 and full-face veils in public in 2010, infuriating some members of its five million-strong Muslim minority.

Defending secularism is a rallying cry in France that resonates across the political spectrum, from left-wingers upholding the liberal values of the Enlightenment to far-right voters seeking a bulwark against the growing role of Islam in French society.

“I have decided that the abaya could no longer be worn in schools,” Education Minister Gabriel Attal said in an interview with TV channel TF1.

“When you walk into a classroom, you shouldn’t be able to identify the pupils’ religion just by looking at them,” he said.

  • Reuters