On the first day of the school year, educational institutions in France took strict action by sending several girls home after they refused to remove their abayas, French Education Minister Gabriel Attal said in a statement.
On August 27, the French government prohibited wearing abayas, which are over-garments worn by Muslim women, covering from the shoulders to the feet, in schools.
Girls Sent Home
In defiance of the ban, Minister Attal informed that nearly 300 girls arrived on Monday morning donning the abaya. While most agreed to change out of the dress, 67 girls declined and were subsequently sent home.
Attal stated that the girls who were denied entry were provided with a letter addressed to their families, emphasising that 'secularism is not a constraint; it is a freedom.' He added that if they returned to school wearing the dress again, there would be an opportunity for further dialogue.
On Monday evening, President Emmanuel Macron defended the controversial measure, acknowledging the existence of a minority in France that exploits religion and challenges the republic and secularism, leading to dire consequences such as the murder of teacher Samuel Paty three years ago for displaying caricatures of Mohamed during a civics education class. Macron stressed the importance of not overlooking the impact of such events.
An organisation representing Muslims has filed a motion with the State Council, France's highest court for complaints against state authorities. The motion seeks an injunction against the ban on both the abaya and the qamis, which is the equivalent dress for men. The Action for the Rights of Muslims (ADM) motion is set to be reviewed later.
Ban On Abayas
Last month, the government announced its prohibition on the abaya in schools, arguing that it violated the principles of secularism in education.
Minister Attal, in an interview, expressed his stance, stating, "I've come to the conclusion that the abaya must no longer be allowed in schools." Attal also emphasized, "Upon entering a classroom, it should not be feasible to deduce the students' religious affiliations solely from their attire."
These principles have already led to the ban on hijabs, i.e., Muslim headscarves, as they are seen as a demonstration of religious affiliation. While the move garnered support from the political right but faced opposition from the hard left, which viewed it as an infringement on civil liberties.
Earlier, in March 2004, a law was introduced that prohibited "the wearing of signs or clothing by which students openly demonstrate a religious affiliation" in schools.
Suggested Reading: France Bans Abayas In Public Schools; Education Minister Justifies