Video: France to ban abaya in state schools

8/31/2023 4:35 PM

France's move to prohibit Muslim students from wearing abayas in state-run schools has drawn criticism from Muslim groups and politicians.

The country's education minister announced the news before the new academic year.

"Our schools are continually put under test, and over the past months, breaches to laicite have increased considerably, in particular with (pupils) wearing religious attire like abayas and kameez," Gabriel Attal told a news conference to explain the ban.

In a statement, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), an umbrella organisation representing multiple Muslim groups in France, said abayas come in many different forms, are tied to Arab culture and are "misrepresented by some as a Muslim religious sign."

"In the name of Secularism and the principle of separation of Religions and the State, the CFCM [strongly] disputes … that a secular authority can define what is or is not religious instead of the religious authorities of a faith," the council added.

The right and far-right welcomed the ban, while the left argued that it infringed upon civil liberties.

Clementine Autain from the left-wing France Unbowed party criticised the "clothes police." She said the government had an "obsessive rejection" of the country's five million Muslims. It added that the announcement was "unconstitutional."

Many activists and human rights groups have expressed worry that France's focus on Muslim women's clothing- often disguised as policies banning religious symbols - is a symptom of normalised Islamophobia in certain EU countries.

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