The French government’s decision to prohibit the wearing of abayas, loose-fitting, full-length robes worn by some Muslim women, in state-run schools has sparked both support and criticism.
France has maintained a ban on religious symbols in state schools since 2004, as part of its approach to secularism known as “laicite.” This decision often causes political tension due to its sensitive nature.
The Education Minister, Gabriel Attal, cited an increase in breaches of secularism, including students wearing religious attire like abayas and kameez, as the reason for the recent ban.
Conservative parties like Les Republicains and the school principals’ union welcomed the decision, viewing it as necessary to uphold secularism. However, some on the left, including the France Insoumise party, criticized the move as a form of “clothes policing” and an unwarranted rejection of Muslims.
Academics also voiced concerns, suggesting that the ban might be counterproductive, given that abayas are sometimes worn for fashion or identity rather than purely religious reasons. They cautioned that such measures could stigmatize Muslim students.