Secularism in French Schools: Ban on Abayas or Stigmatization of Muslims?

Today the French justice will examine the demand to suspend the ban on abayas in public schools .

Muslim woman in class

Photo: Freepik


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Leer en español: Laicismo en las escuelas de Francia: ¿prohibición de abayas o estigmatización de los musulmanes?

The Council of State, the highest administrative court in France, will examine today the petition of an association that defends the rights of Muslims in which it requests the suspension of a law that prohibits wearing abayas in public schools, which entered into force this Monday.

The Muslim Rights Action (ADM), the claimant association, wants a suspension of a measure approved by the Government of Emmanuel Macron on August 27, as it alleges that it "stigmatizes" people of Muslim faith and " represents a threat to their fundamental rights in the social plan".

The Council of State is expected to examine the demand urgently, starting at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday. The Court will have a minimum period of 48 hours and a maximum of one month to rule.

The government's position

Macron himself defended this Monday the ban on the abaya – a dress that covers the body of women from head to toe – and considered that those who challenge the secularism that characterizes France are a "minority".

In this sense, the president opened the door to the wearing of uniforms in public schools.

The position of those who ask to examine the law

The Muslim Rights Action defends the right to wear the abaya since it does not consider it a religious expression itself nor does it intend, by its mere use, to oppose secularism in schools.

The feminist movements, for their part, think (some) that it is the duty of feminism to defend the freedom of women to dress as they want. This, of course, would include the wearing of the abaya as a cultural issue for women.

Also read: May Hijab Protests in Iran Spark another Arab Spring?

Opinions are often divided on the use of the abaya, the veil and the hijab. Some believe that banning their use in schools is freeing girls from these mandates. Others believe that it is subjecting them to dress under the Western mandate and against their cultural values.

Background of secularism in French schools

Since its entry into force this Monday the 4th, the Executive has detected sporadic breaches and has estimated that 67 students have refused to part with the abaya. It is not the first French law that aims to restrict clothing with religious connotations.

In 2004, clothing or signs with which students "ostensibly manifest a religious affiliation" began to be outlawed in public schools and high schools. The target of the law at that time was above all the Islamic headscarf.

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