Nearly 300 Muslim students defy France’s abaya ban

Pic: AA

Nearly 300 Muslim female students refused to remove their abaya at the return of the school year today despite a recent ban brought in by the authorities.

French Education Minister Gabriel Attal said in an interview with RMC that 298 students arrived at schools in various regions of the country wearing an abaya.

“Sixty-seven of them refused to give up on their abaya,” Attal said, adding: “I do not want to be able to identify students’ religion in schools by looking at their outfit.”

The minister also stressed the importance of dialogue and explaining the purpose of the new rule, which French teachers have been instructed to do while preventing Muslim girls wearing abayas from entering schools.

President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview yesterday that a unique attire could be adopted in schools, such as a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and a jacket.

And on Friday he vowed that the government will be uncompromising on the overgarment ban in schools. He backed Attal’s stance, saying: “We will be uncompromising on this topic. … We will take actions beyond words.”

“Schools in our country are secular, free and compulsory, but foremost, secular … and religious signs, whatever they are, do not have a place (there),” Macron said, according to broadcaster BFMTV.

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But Vincent Brengarth, the lawyer for the Muslim Rights Action (ADM), said on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Friday that they had filed an appeal with the Council of State to seek the suspension of the abaya ban at school, which he said violates “several fundamental freedoms.”

The French top court will begin examining the case this afternoon.

Supporters of restrictions of Islamic clothing in schools argue that it upholds France’s principle of secularism, or laïcité, and ensures equality and neutrality in the education system. They believe that wearing religious symbols in schools could create divisions and infringe upon the separation of religion and state.

However, opponents view the ban as discriminatory and an infringement on religious freedom. They argue that it unfairly targets Muslim girls and women, restricting their ability to express their faith and access education.

Many critics argue that the law disproportionately affects Muslim students and reinforces cultural stereotypes.

The French government has been criticised for targeting Muslims with statements and policies in recent years including raids on mosques and charitable foundations, and an “anti-separatism” law that slaps wide-ranging restrictions on the community.

French students went back to school today. Pic: AA

French Muslim activist Marwan Muhammad blasted the new law as post-colonial, sexist and racism on X in a thread.

He said: “Since 1989, racists in France couldn’t take the fact that Muslims, Blacks, and Arabs are becoming more visible. So they came up with the idea that France has to ban any form of religious visibility, as a way to ostracize and exclude minorities. They recoded ‘laïcité’ to do that.

“The initial idea was that THE STATE has to be neutral, but they shifted to the idea that INDIVIDUALS (too, especially if they are from a minority) should be neutral. What is ‘neutral’? Religiously invisible. Politically silent. It started with the hijab and never ended…

“Now comes this summer and, after duly harassing Muslim women on beaches for wearing burkinis like they do every year, French politicians didn’t know how to signal themselves to the far-right electorate they so desperately seek to secure. Hence the abaya.

“The abaya has no legal definition. The abaya is not per se a religious dress. The abaya can be loose enough (no pun intended) to target any large, long or ample dress, so it is perfect to create a political issue and divide public opinion. And it works.

“Now you might wonder: How are they going to differentiate between an ‘abaya’ and a long robe? They can’t, from the dress. But they try, by looking at WHO wears it. This school principal explains the MO: they ‘look’ if the person is Arab and target her

“So this high-scale racial profiling is now becoming normal and institutionalized in France. A long robe is just a dress. But if a Black or Arab kid wears it, it becomes an “Islamists’ instrument to subvert the Republic”. They even have a process to harass the kids.

“Check this: Step 1: They isolate the Muslim kids they have racially profiled Step 2: They put them in a room for a ‘dialogue’ to try and coerce them into ‘recognizing’ the dress is religious Step 3: They search them to ensure they don’t film the scene.

“So for those of you who are understandably shocked by what is going on in France, call it for what it is: Simple. Plain. Post-colonial. Sexist. Racism. Send journalists. Ask questions. Report on what is going on and hold France accountable for this. Because they will not stop.”


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