Court upholds ban on abayas in public schools

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The Council of State, France’s top court for handling complaints against the government, has upheld a policy banning school students from wearing abayas — a long, overflowing garment worn by mostly Muslim women.

 

Muslim advocates had petitioned the top court to rescind the government’s ban on abaya, claiming it was discriminatory.

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However, on Thursday, the court ruled in favour of the restriction, adducing their ruling to a French law that “prohibits the wearing by pupils of signs or clothing ostensibly expressing religious affiliation, either in and of themselves, or because of the pupil’s behaviour.”

 

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“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 held, opposing claims that the ban violates “several fundamental freedoms.”

 

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The Action for the Rights of Muslims (ADM) had filed a motion for an injunction to prevent President Emmanuel Macron from imposing the ban on the abaya. The ban was announced last month on the basis that it violates the freedom and rights of its wearers.

 

ADM’s attorney, Vincent Brengarth, claimed that Mr Macron used the ban to score cheap political points. Sihem Zine, the association’s president, called the new ban “sexist” because it only applied to women, particularly those of Arab descent.

 

But the French education ministry countered the argument, saying the abaya made its wearers “immediately recognisable as belonging to the Muslim religion”.

 

According to Gabriel Attal, France’s education minister, at least 67 of 300 schoolgirls were sent home on Monday after they bluntly refused to take off their abayas.

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