France Is Banning Students From Wearing Abayas In Schools

The French government announced this week that the nation’s schoolchildren will be banned from wearing abayas, a long robe-like garment often worn by Muslim women, to class, sparking major pushback and conversations regarding Islamophobia. 

Embed from Getty Images

France will ban schoolchildren from wearing abayas, a long robe-like garment often worn by Muslim women, for the upcoming academic year, marking the latest restriction from the government that is being referred to as contentious towards Muslim people specifically. 

French Education Minister Gabriel Attal, stated that abayas will not be permitted in the nation’s schools for the new year, starting in September, as a part of the nation’s commitment to “laïcité” a French term used to refer to the separation of state institutions and religions.

Many have argued, however, that the French government’s use of “laïcité” is just an excuse to justify anti-Islam positions and ostrosize Muslims. “Schools of the Republic are built on very strong values and principles, especially laïcité,” Attal said to TV network TF1 on Sunday.

“For me, laïcité, when put in the framework of a school, is very clear: you enter a classroom and you must not be able to identify the religious identity of students just by looking at them.”

Many opposing lawmakers have spoken out against the new restrictions. Danièle Obono, a prominent politician who opposes the new measures, attacked the move as being a “new Islamophobic campaign,” on social media

Jean-Luc Mélenchon,  described his “sadness to see the return to school politically polarized by a new absurd entirely artificial religious war about a woman’s dress.”

“When will there be civil peace and true secularism that unites instead of exasperating?” 

France has pursued a multitude of controversial bans and restrictions involving Islamic dress and culture within the past few years Rim-Sarah Alouane, a French legal scholar and commentator, also posted to social media regarding these restrictions.

Embed from Getty Images

“This type of policy stands in opposition to the liberal core of the 1905 Law on Separation of Church & State – a law we’ve been distorting and weaponizing since the ’90s. Such policies fuel the nation’s fractures.”

Embed from Getty Images

Last year, lawmakers backed up a ban on athletes from wearing a hijab and other “conspicuous religious symbols” in sports competitions. This measure was proposed by the right wing, Les Republicains party, which made the argument that the hijab could risk the safety of the athletes wearing it as they play.

The United Nations even had to step in back in 2018 after France banned the niqab, full-face veils worn by some Muslim Women. The UN’s Human Rights Committee stated that this measure violated the human rights of the individuals who wore niqabs. 

“During my meetings with (the school heads) this summer, I sensed their need for a clear rule on the national level on the issue of abayas, so the rule is now here,” the education minister Attal stated, avoiding questioning regarding if the guidelines on hijabs would actually be enforced in schools.