France’s education minister wants to ban Muslim robes from schools

“I have decided that abayas are no longer allowed to be worn in school,” Attal told TF1 television on Sunday. He will provide school leaders with “clear rules at the national level” before classes resume nationwide on September 4. “Secularism means the freedom to emancipate oneself through school,” added the minister. After taking office at the end of July, he declared that attending school in an abaya was “a religious gesture” and that he would take action against it. On Sunday, he emphasized that when entering a classroom, it should not be obvious which religion the students belong to.

Since 2004, conspicuous religious symbols have been banned from schools in France. In addition to headscarves, this also includes Jewish yarmulkes and Christian crosses. A possible ban on abajas has been debated in France for months. The French Muslim umbrella organization CFCM is of the opinion that the floor-length robe is not a religious garment. Right-wing and radical right-wing politicians nevertheless pushed for a ban, while the left-wing camp rejected this.

Republican Party leader Eric Ciotti endorsed the Secretary of Education’s announcement on Sunday. The general secretary of the headmasters’ union SNPDEN, Bruno Bobkiewicz, also welcomed the fact that there will now be clear instructions for the headmasters. Clémentine Autain from the left-wing populist party LFI, on the other hand, called the planned ban “unconstitutional” and warned against a “clothes police” in schools.

Jean Harris

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