France will bans public school students from wearing gamis or abayas, said Education Minister Gabriel Attal on Sunday, August 27, 2023, ahead of the back-to-school season.
France, which has imposed a strict ban on religious symbols in public schools since a 19th century law removed traditional Catholic influences from public education, has struggled to update guidelines to deal with its growing Muslim minority.
Defending secularism is a rallying cry in France that reverberates across the political spectrum, from leftists who espouse liberal Enlightenment values to right-wing voters seeking bulwarks against the growing role of Islam in French society.
“Secularism means the freedom to liberate oneself through the school,” said Attal, describing the abaya as a “religious gesture, which aims to test republican resistance to the secular protections that schools must have.” A law passed in March 2004 banned “the wearing of signs or clothing which would enable students to indicate religious affiliation” in schools.
This prohibition includes large crosses, Jewish kippa, and Islamic headscarves.
Unlike the headscarf. The abaya is in a gray area and so far there has been no ban at all, Arabnews reported.
The debate has intensified since a radical Chechen refugee killed teacher Samuel Paty, who showed students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, near his school in a suburb of Paris in 2020.
The CFCM, a national body that includes many Muslim associations, says clothing is not a “mark of religion.”
The announcement is the first big step Attal, 34, has made since he was promote this summer to handle a highly controversial education portfolio.
Together with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, 40 years old, he is seen as a rising star who has the potential to play an important role after Macron steps down in 2027.