Public Schools In France Send Home Dozens Of Muslim Girls Wearing Abayas

“Secularism is not a constraint, it is a liberty”

On the first day of the new academic year, French schools sent home dozens of girls for refusing to remove their abayas. Defying a ban on the Muslim garment, nearly 300 girls showed up wearing an abaya. Most agreed to change, but 67 refused and were sent home.

The government announced last month it was banning the abaya in schools, saying it broke the rules on secularism in education that have already led to Muslim headscarves being banned on the grounds they constitute a display of religious affiliation.

The 34-year-old Education Minister Gabriel Attal. said the girls refused entry on Monday were given a letter addressed to their families saying that “secularism is not a constraint, it is a liberty. If they showed up at school again wearing the gown there would be a “new dialogue”.

An association representing Muslims has filed a motion with the state council, France’s highest court for complaints against state authorities, for an injunction against the ban on the abaya and the qamis, its equivalent dress for men.

France’s Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), established to represent Muslims before the government, said the banning of the abaya could create “an elevated risk of discrimination” and said it was considering putting its own complaint before the state council.