Schools in France send dozens of Muslim girls home for wearing abayas
French public schools have sent dozens of girls home for refusing to remove their abayas – long, loose-fitting robes worn by some Muslim women and girls – on the first day of the school year, according to Education Minister Gabriel Attal.
Defying a ban on the garment seen as a religious symbol, nearly 300 girls showed up on Monday morning wearing abayas, Attal told the BFM broadcaster on Tuesday.
Most agreed to change out of the robe, but 67 refused and were sent home, he said.
The government announced last month it was banning the abaya in schools, saying it broke the rules on secularism in education that have already seen headscarves banned on the grounds they constitute a display of religious affiliation.
The move gladdened the political right but the hard left argued it represented an affront to civil liberties.
Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris before the ban came into force said Attal deemed the garment a religious symbol which violates French secularism.
“Since 2004, in France, religious signs and symbols have been banned in schools, including headscarves, kippas and crosses,” she said.
“Gabriel Attal, the education minister, says that no one should walk into a classroom wearing something which could suggest what their religion is.”
Attal said on Tuesday 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”, the minister said.