On the first day of the new school year in France, nearly 300 girls defied a ban on abayas, long robes worn by some Muslim women, leading to 67 of them being sent home.
Education Minister Gabriel Attal confirmed that most students complied with the ban by changing their attire.
France, known for its strict regulations on religious symbols in state-run schools, implemented the ban on abayas, considering them a breach of secular education rules.
While this decision garnered support from the political right, it also sparked concerns about civil liberties from the hard left.
The ban on abayas follows a history of contentious debates on the place of religious attire in French schools, reflecting the ongoing tension between different political ideologies regarding the rights of Muslim women and girls.
France’s Evolving Ban on Religious Symbols
In 2010, France implemented a ban on full-face veils in public, sparking outrage within its substantial Muslim population of five million.
France has maintained a rigorous prohibition on religious symbols in schools since the 19th Century, encompassing Christian emblems like prominent crosses, aiming to prevent Catholic influence on public education.
To adapt to its evolving demographic landscape, France has periodically adjusted its laws to include the Muslim headscarf and the Jewish kippa. However, the abayas had not faced an outright ban until now.