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France High School Strikes Over Islamophobic Abaya Ban

Teachers & students strike in a French high school against ban abaya.

Many Muslim female students in France were dismissed from school on Monday after refusing to remove their abayas.

In France, which has the largest Muslim community in all of Europe, the exhibition of religious symbols has long been a source of debate.

Since the 19th century, religious symbols have been outlawed in public schools, and regulations have been passed to eliminate any traditional Catholic influence. Students are also not allowed to wear Jewish kippas, and in 2004 France outlawed Muslim headscarves in classrooms. In 2010, France outlawed full face veils in public, which infuriated many in the country’s five million-strong Muslim population.

A statement from the protest group at the Maurice Utrillo high school in Stains, Seine-Saint-Denis, calling for a strike that began on Wednesday said, “We want to distance ourselves from the government’s Islamophobic policy.”

“Students must be made to feel welcome at Maurice Utrillo High School, and we are not required to enforce dress codes. We won’t discriminate against pupils who wear abayas or qamis.

Seine-Saint-Denis, a poor suburb or banlieue northeast of Paris, is home to a large population with roots in the Middle East and Africa.

The school’s decision comes after the government forbade the two outfits for students, claiming that they violate French laws governing secularism in the classroom.

Parents attended the demonstration, where school staff members lamented budget problems and criticized a “drastic drop” in the resources needed to teach effectively, including reductions in staff and teaching hours.

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