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France to ban wearing Islamic abayas in schools – Official

The French education minister, Gabriel Attal

The French education minister has revealed plans to prohibit the wearing of abaya dresses by Muslim women in schools, citing the violation of France’s stringent secular laws in education.

Education Minister Gabriel Attal stated on Sunday that “it will no longer be possible to wear an abaya at school.”

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He indicated that he would provide clear directives at the national level to school administrators before the resumption of classes nationwide on September 4.

This decision follows prolonged debates concerning the presence of abayas in French schools, as the country has historically prohibited women from wearing Islamic headscarves.

The prohibition comes after demands from right-wing and far-right factions, while the left has raised concerns about potential infringement on civil liberties.

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The issue has prompted tensions within schools and between teachers and parents. Attal emphasized the importance of secularism in education, asserting that “when you enter a classroom, you must not be able to identify the religion of the students by looking at them.”

A 2004 law prohibits “the wearing of signs or outfits by which students ostensibly show a religious affiliation” in schools, encompassing items like large crosses, Jewish kippas, and Islamic headscarves.

Abayas, until now, existed in a gray area and were not explicitly banned.

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The announcement marks one of Education Minister Gabriel Attal’s major moves since his promotion this summer to oversee the contentious education portfolio.

This action reflects a broader discourse about secularism, civil liberties, and religious symbols in public spaces in France.

It also aligns with the ongoing discussion about France’s approach to integration and diversity, particularly within the context of its Muslim population.

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