Gabriel Attal, the French Minister of Education, stated that French schools sent dozens of girls back to their homes on the first day of the new school year for refusing to remove their abayas, in defiance of the ban imposed on Islamic clothing. Approximately 300 girls attended school on Monday and Tuesday wearing abayas, according to Gabriel Attal, most of whom agreed to change, but 67 refused and were sent back home.
The French government announced last month that it would ban the abaya in schools, stating that it violated the principles of secularism in education, which had already led to the ban on the Islamic veil on the grounds that it represented a display of religious affiliation.
The British newspaper “The Guardian” confirmed that this move received wide resonance among the political right. but its critics argued that it represented an insult to civil liberties. Attal said that the girls who were denied entry received a letter addressed to their families stating that “secularism is not an obstacle, it is freedom.”
The minister stated that if they return to school wearing the abaya. there will be a “new dialogue.”
Late on Monday, President Emmanuel Macron defended the controversial measure, stating that there is a “minority” in France “kidnapping religion and challenging the republic and secularism,” leading to “the worst consequences.”
He cited the killing of the teacher Samuel Paty three years ago for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. which necessitates the separation of civic education.
Inflammatory Response Among Muslims
The newspaper confirmed that what happened on the first day of school in France has stirred anger among the Arab and Islamic community in France. An association representing Muslims filed a complaint with the Council of State. France’s highest court. against the state authorities, seeking a judicial order against the ban on the abaya and the qamis. the male equivalent.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith, established to represent Muslims to the government, stated that the ban on the abaya could create a “significant risk of discrimination,” and argued that it is studying filing its complaint with the Council of State.
It expressed concerns about “arbitrary” regulations and that the assessment criteria for the clothing of young girls could be based on “presumed origin, last name. or skin color” rather than what they wear.
A law was passed in March 2004 banning “the wearing of conspicuous signs or clothing by which students manifest their religious affiliation” in schools. including large Christian crosses, Jewish skullcaps, and Islamic veils.
The American network “CNN” confirmed that unlike the veil, abayas have occupied a gray area and have not faced. any explicit ban so far. This issue has been the dominant topic in French politics after the summer vacation. where critics accused the government of attempting to ban the abaya to compete with the far-right National Rally led by Marine Le Pen and shift further to the right.
The announcement of the ban last month was the first major step by Attal since his promotion this summer to handle the highly controversial education portfolio. Alongside Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin. he is seen as a rising star who could play a significant role after Macron steps down in 2027.