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France top Court upholds government ban on Muslim dress abaya in schools

September 7, 2023 at 8:47 pm

A rally was organized by staff from the Maurice-Utrillo High School in Stains to protest against the government’s abaya dress ban in schools in Seine-Saint-Denis, in the suburbs of Paris, France on September 06, 2023. [Mohamad Salaheldin Abdelg Alsayed – Anadolu Agency]

France’s highest Court ruled, on Thursday, that the government ban on Muslim dress, abaya, is legal, local media reported.

The Council of State said it had rejected an appeal by a Muslim rights group against the government ban announced last month on abaya, a loose-fitting, full-length robe worn by some Muslim students in schools. The Court said the ban was not discriminatory towards Muslims.

“This ban does not seriously violate and is not manifestly illegal to the right to respect for private life, the freedom of religion, the right to education … or the principle of non-discrimination,” the Court said in a statement.

It also said that the wearing of abaya and qamis in schools – which soared in the last school year of 2022-2023 – fits in the logic of religious affirmation.

READ: Abaya ban debate masks major issues in France education system – unions

The government ban also prohibits students in public school buildings from conspicuously wearing signs or outfits of adherence to any religion, the statement also read.

On 31 August, Vincent Brengarth, a lawyer for the Muslim Rights Action (ADM), filed an appeal with the Council of State to seek the suspension of the ban on the abaya which he said violates “several fundamental freedoms”

Earlier this week, Education Minister, Gabriel Attal, said that more than 60 Muslim female students refused to remove their abaya at schools.

The new school session began on Monday and, despite the new rule, 298 students came to schools in various regions of the country wearing an abaya, he said.

The controversial move sparked a backlash against the government, which has been criticised in recent years for targeting Muslims with statements and policies, including raids on mosques and charitable foundations, and an “anti-separatism” law that imposes broad restrictions on the community.

READ: UN criticises France for banning abaya in schools