France: Authorities must repeal discriminatory ban on the wearing of abaya in public schools

On 27 August 2023, in a prime-time television interview, Gabriel Attal, France’s Minister of Education, announced that he had decided that “the abaya could no longer be worn at school”. On 28 August 2023, just a few days before children in France were to re-start school after the summer holidays, the Minister confirmed in a speech that wearing of “religious dress such as abaya or qamis” would be banned in all public schools in France. The Minister justified this decision to “refuse communautarisme” and asserted that “schools must at all costs (…) be protected from religious proselytism”. In a general context of relentless and decades long targeting of Muslims in France, especially women and girls, Amnesty International is highly concerned by France’s ongoing breaches of its international human rights obligations and its consequences on the lives of Muslim people in France, and those perceived as Muslims. Amnesty International urges the French authorities, and in particular the President and the Ministry of Education to, at a minimum: repeal the ban on the wearing of abaya and qamis in public schools; and respect, protect and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression, religion, belief and education of everyone, and especially Muslim girls, and those perceived as Muslims, to wear abaya and other religious or cultural symbols or dress without any discrimination.

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