France Bans Islamic Dress In Public Schools

Public school students in France were longer permitted to attend school wearing long robes when classes resumed this week after the country’s Education Minister announced that a ban on khamis and abayas, the robes worn by Muslims, would take effect on Monday, the Associated Press reported.

While visiting a professional school in southern France last Friday, President Emmanuel Macron addressed the ban, saying his government is aware that there will be attempts by some students to test the rule and “defy the republican system,” but said his government would remain “intractable” in enforcing it.

In announcing the new rule last Monday, Education Minister Gabriel Attal said that the abayas worn by female students and the khamis worn by male students were an “infringement” on France’s foundational principle of secularism. He accused the Muslim students who wear the robes of trying to destabilize schools.

In enacting the ban, the Education Ministry cited the 2004 law aimed at upholding secularism in public schools. The law, which banned the wearing of religious garb, including Muslim headscarves, Jewish kippas, turbans worn by Sikhs, and large Christian crosses, was passed after months of furious debate with Muslims accusing the French government of attempting to stigmatize them.

The law does not apply to university students.

When asked how the new ban would be enforced, President Macron said the government would send “specific personnel” to “sensitive” schools to assist principals and faculty and to communicate with students and their families if needed.

The education minister said last Monday that by the end of 2024, the government hopes to train 14,000 school personnel in positions of leadership on how to deal with enforcing the ban, as well as other matters related to preserving secularism. By the end of 2025, 300,000 personnel would be trained, Attal said.