FRANCE: High school goes on strike over abaya ban

Extract of article published by Al Jazeera on 07/09/2023- accessible here.

Teachers and students of a French high school have gone on strike in protest against the government’s decision to ban abaya and qamis – long and loose garments worn by some Muslim women and men, respectively – in public schools.

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

“Students must be welcomed at the Maurice Utrillo high school and we do not have to police the clothing. We refuse to stigmatise students who wear an abaya or a qamis.”

Seine-Saint-Denis, which is northeast of Paris, is an impoverished suburb – or banlieue – where many residents have ancestry in Africa and the Middle East.

The school’s decision follows a government ban on the two outfits for schoolchildren, saying that the garments break French rules on secularism in education.