Home World France bans gowns in schools, renewing the debate over secularism

France bans gowns in schools, renewing the debate over secularism

France bans gowns in schools, renewing the debate over secularism

The French government has announced that it will ban abayas — the long, flowing dresses worn by some Muslim women — in public schools, setting off a fierce national debate about secularism, individual freedoms, and what qualifies as a religious symbol.

France has been around for a long time Paying attention to the proper place of religion in public life. Secularism is a core concept in its constitution, and religious signs are considered eye-catching or “ostentatious”, including the Islamic headscarf, Large Christian and Jewish crosses The yarmulke has been banned from public schools since 2004 under French law.

Education Minister Gabriel Atal The ban was announced this weekjust days before the start of the new school year, saying that public schools have a duty to uphold the “fundamental principles of our republic.” He likened abayas, as well as khamis, which are robes worn by some Muslim men, to other taboo signs indicating one’s religion.

“The abaya has no place in our schools, and it is nothing more than a religious symbol,” he said. “Schools must be protected, at any cost, perhaps more than any other institution, from religious proselytizing, from any embryo of sectarianism, or from the rejection of our most important common norm.”

Conservative politicians welcomed the move, but critics and lawmakers on the left accused the government of censoring what women could wear or trying to woo right-wing voters. Some critics argue that it would be impractical to ask schools to decide what is an abaya, and what is simply a long dress.

French Muslim women are backing away from the veil policy

Not all Muslim women wear abayas, but some, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, do so out of modesty. The robes are usually dark in color, loose fitting, and cover most of the woman’s body.

The French Council of the Muslim Religion, or CFCM for the French acronym, which represents several Islamic groups in France, said in a statement that gowns come in various forms, are associated with Arab culture and are “distorted by some as the Islamic religion.” Signboard.”

In the name of secularism and the principle of separation between religion and state, the French Council of the Islamic Religion [strongly] The council said in a statement: “Disputes … that secular authority can determine what is religious and what is not religious rather than the religious authorities of a faith.” statement.

Online, some French have joked that in order to enforce the new ban, school principals and teachers will be given the unenviable task of distinguishing gowns from ordinary long dresses.

Cecile Duflo, environmental activist and former French minister for regional development, posted a photo from a long time Black and green dresswondering why this should be seen as an “attack on secularism”. One commenter responded saying the girl would only wear such an “ugly” dress for religious reasons — at which point Duflot open The dress was not an abaya, but a silk Gucci dress costing 2,980 euros ($3,220).

The ban has also divided politicians, especially those on the left, highlighting how lawmakers are struggling to balance the values ​​of freedom and secularism in France.

An extreme right-wing deputy Said Jean-Luc Mélenchon He was saddened to see the back-to-school season “politically polarized by new absurdities [and] A completely artificial religious war on women’s clothing,” while Sandrine Rousseau, MP for the Green Party, said: He said The ban was a form of “social control over the bodies of women and young girls”.

However, Eric Ciotti, chairman of the centre-right Republican Party, said: named It is a “timely and long overdue decision”, while Jerome Gage, the centre-left Socialist MP, said: He said The ban was in keeping with the “spirit and letter of the 2004 Act”, and the policy was welcomed as beneficial to school administrators.

Some school unions also welcomed the announcement. A union representing school principals has asked the government to clarify what they should do about gowns in schools, declaring that it is unwilling to deal with the growing prevalence of loose-fitting, full-body gowns among student bodies, and unwilling to decide for itself whether or not the gowns constitute a religious symbol. proud”.

With regard to gowns, Didier Georges, National Secretary of SNPDEN-UNSA, told Reuters, “What we wanted from ministers was: yes or no?” … We are satisfied that the decision has been made.”

Atal said the government will train 300,000 school staff to understand and apply the rules on secularism by 2025.

Disagreements over what should or should not be banned in France in the name of secularism have surfaced frequently in recent years, against the backdrop of deteriorating relations between the French authorities and the French Muslim community.

Some of the most high-profile incidents occurred in 2016, when the mayors of several French cities and towns implemented beach bans on the burkini – the full-body swimsuit worn by some Muslim women who prefer to stay covered while swimming.. The move sparked outrage, especially because it sought to control what Muslim women can control Wear even outside the settings of state officials. France’s Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, overturned the ban.

When the council was again asked to decide on a similar ban imposed by a town in south-eastern France in August, it again overturned the ban, arguing that it “seriously and illegally” undermined “freedom to come and go, freedom of conscience and freedom of expression”. individual freedom.”

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