French State Schools Refuse Entry to Several Girls Wearing Muslim Abaya Dresses

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The French education minister has revealed that nearly 300 students showed up at school on Monday wearing abayas, the long Muslim robes that were banned in schools just last week.

The majority of these girls, primarily aged 15 or older, agreed to change into different attire. Following the guidelines set by the ministry, there was a subsequent dialogue with the school staff in each case. Consequently, most girls willingly opted for alternative clothing and were able to commence their classes.

However, 67 girls refused to comply with the ban and were subsequently sent home. A further round of dialogue with their families is now scheduled. If this fails to resolve the issue, exclusion from school may be the next step.

Compared to the 12 million schoolboys and girls who began the term on Monday, the government believes these figures indicate broad acceptance of the ban. Nonetheless, a legal challenge by a group representing some Muslims is set to go before the courts later today.

At the end of August, the education minister announced the prohibition on pupils wearing the loose-fitting full-length robes, which some Muslim women wear, in France’s state-run schools starting the new school year on September 4th.

France maintains a strict ban on religious symbols in state schools and government buildings, citing their infringement on secular laws. The ban on wearing headscarves has been in place since 2004 in state-run schools.

French State Schools Refuse Entry to Several Girls Wearing Muslim Abaya Dresses

This move follows months of heated debate regarding the presence of abayas in French schools. The garment’s increasing popularity in schools has generated a political divide, with right-wing parties advocating for a ban while left-leaning groups express concerns about the rights of Muslim women and girls.

In 2010, France prohibited the wearing of full-face veils in public, sparking controversy within France’s five-million-strong Muslim community.

France has long enforced strict restrictions on religious symbols in schools, dating back to the 19th century, including Christian symbols such as large crosses, aiming to limit any Catholic influence on public education. As the country’s demographics have evolved, the law has been amended over the years to include the Muslim headscarf and Jewish kippa. However, abayas have now been added to the list of banned attire.

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