On the first day of the school year, French schools reportedly sent dozens of girls back home for refusing to remove their abayas, which are over-garments worn by Muslim women that cover from the shoulders to the feet. This incident occurred after the French administration banned the wearing of abayas in state-run schools last month. The decision to ban abaya dresses in schools has received both support and criticism, with a government spokesperson characterizing the wearing of abayas as a “political attack.”
Education minister Gabriel Attal told the BFM broadcaster on Tuesday (September 5) that nearly 300 girls showed up Monday morning wearing an abaya, defying a ban on the Muslim dress.
The minister said that most agreed to change out of the dress, but 67 refused and were sent home.
Attal said the girls refused entry were given a letter addressed to their families saying that “secularism is not a constraint, it is a liberty”.
The minister said that if they showed up at school again wearing the dress there would be a “new dialogue”.
An organisation that represents Muslims has requested an injunction against the prohibition on the abaya and the qamis, its male equivalent clothing, with the State Council. Later on Tuesday, the motion from Action for the Rights of Muslims (ADM) will be reviewed.
French President Emmanuel Macron late Monday defended the controversial measure, saying there was a “minority” in France who “hijack a religion and challenge the republic and secularism”, leading to the “worst consequences” such as the murder three years ago of teacher Samuel Paty for showing Mohamed caricatures during a civics education class.
“We cannot act as if the terrorist attack, the murder of Samuel Paty, had not happened,” he said in an interview with YouTube channel HugoDecrypte.
In French schools, women have long been banned from wearing the headscarf. The European nation has enforced a strict ban on religious signs in state schools since 19th-century laws removed any traditional Catholic influence from public education, but it, to some extent, struggled to update guidelines for the Muslim minority.
In 2004, France banned headscarves in schools, which was followed by thousands of people, many of them women wearing headscarves, marching on the street to protest the law banning Islamic coverings and other religious apparel in public schools. The polls stated that a substantial majority of French citizens supported the prohibition.