Thursday, September 28

France bans the abaya dress from being worn in schools, sparking fury from Muslim leaders

France bans the abaya dress from being worn in schools, sparking fury from Muslim leaders

  • The sudden move has angered religious leaders across the country
  • France has a ban on religious signs in state schools and government buildings 

Muslim leaders have reacted with anger to a sudden move by the French government to ban the abaya in state schools.

The loose-fitting long robe is considered too closely linked with Islam by Gabriel Attal, the education secretary in Paris.

France has a strict ban on religious signs in state schools and government buildings, because they violate laws on secularism.

Announcing a ban starting on September 4, at the start of new school year, Mr Attal said: ‘When you walk into a classroom, you shouldn’t be able to identify the pupils’ religion just by looking at them. I have decided that the abaya can no longer be worn in schools.’

But Abdallah Zekri, vice-president of the French Council for Muslim Worship, said the abaya ‘has never been a religious symbol anyway’.

France has a strict ban on religious signs in state schools and government buildings, because they violate laws on secularism (stock image)

France has a strict ban on religious signs in state schools and government buildings, because they violate laws on secularism (stock image)

France's education secretary, Gabriel Attal (pictured), has banned the garment in schools and government buildings

France’s education secretary, Gabriel Attal (pictured), has banned the garment in schools and government buildings

Instead, he said the ban was yet another example of politicians using dress favoured by women and girls to attack some five-million Muslims living in France.

‘I think the minister could have asked the opinion of religious leaders,’ said Mr Zerkri. 

‘For me, the abaya is not a religious dress, it is a form of fashion.

‘If you go to some stores, you find abayas. It’s a long and loose dress at the same time. It has nothing to do with religion.’

In June, the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) also ruled that the abaya was not a Muslim religious sign.

Mr Zekri said he was ‘surprised that the question of the abaya in classes has become a priority, while teaching teams are worried about the lack of funding, the lack of teachers, and lots of other problems in schools’.

In 2010, France banned the wearing of full-face veils in public, provoking anger among Muslims about so-called ‘Burqa Ban’.

The country has enforced a strict ban on religious signs at schools since the 19th Century, and now items banned also include the Jewish kippa.

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