France recently announced a ban on abayas at public schools, arguing the garment violates the country's strict secular laws in education.
The garment is a loose-fitting, full-length robe worn by some Muslim women, and the ban has triggered a fresh row over secularism, racism, sexism, and Islamophobia in France. Speaking to The New Arab, Loubna Reguig, president of EMF-Muslim Students of France, said the ban was "illogical", as abayas are not religious clothes.
The French Republic is built on a strict separation of Church and state, intended to foster equality for all private beliefs. Over the past 20 years, state schools – with no uniforms – have increasingly become the focus of rows over the country's radical secularism (laicité).
In 2004, a law banned wearing ostensibly religious symbols in schools. This included Islamic headscarves, Christian crosses, Jewish kippas and Sikh turbans.
The French authorities have been eying a ban on abayas for years. Still, they remained a grey area challenging to regulate because how can one tell the difference between abayas and long dresses?
Produced by Alexander Durie