A school in the northeast of Paris has joined students in the movement against France’s school abaya ban.
Teachers and students at Maurice Utrillo High School in Seine-Saint-Denis, a diverse suburb, have gone on strike together in protest against the government’s decision to ban the abaya and qamis in public schools, Al Jazeera reported.
The abaya and qamis are loose garments popularly worn by Muslim women and men, respectively.
“We want to distance ourselves from the government’s Islamophobic policy,” a statement from the protest group at the Maurice Utrillo High School said. “Students must be welcomed at the Maurice Utrillo High School and we do not have to police the clothing. We refuse to stigmatize students who wear an abaya or a qamis.”
The school’s strike began on Wednesday, and in addition to teachers and students, parents also joined in protest. The school’s decision to speak out against the abaya ban follows a nationwide protest on Monday.
Nearly 300 girls showed up to school Monday morning wearing abayas in protest of the nationwide ban on the first day of the school year, French Education Minister Gabriel Attal told the BFM broadcaster on Tuesday.
According to Al Jazeera, most of the students agreed to change out of the long loose-fitting robes, but at least 67 refused and were sent home.
Since its announcement, several students have opposed the ban including a 15-year-old student in southwest France identified as Yara. Yara told the Agence-France Presse, a local French news agency, that she does not consider the abaya religious, instead, she sees it as a cultural apparel.
“They say that the abaya is a religious dress, but it’s not at all, it’s not a religious dress, it’s a traditional dress, it’s a dress that all girls wear, both veiled and non-veiled, and so it’s a bit of a problem,” she said.
While uniforms have not been obligatory in French schools since 1968, many have suggested it as a solution to debates on the ban.
The French government announced the decision to ban children from wearing the abaya on Aug. 27, under the guise of not being able to identify a child’s religion in classes, Reuters reported.
“I have decided that the abaya could no longer be worn in schools,” Attal said in an interview with TV channel TF1 in August. “When you walk into a classroom, you shouldn’t be able to identify the pupils’ religion just by looking at them.”
The ban is effective in state-run schools. It follows a 2004 ban on headscarves in schools and a 2010 ban on full-face veils in public.
“Since 2004, in France, religious signs and symbols have been banned in schools, including headscarves, kippas and crosses,” Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler said.
“Gabriel Attal, the education minister, says that no one should walk into a classroom wearing something which could suggest what their religion is.”
The country has banned anything that may seem like a threat to France’s secularism since the 19th century. According to The Guardian, this includes large Christian crosses, Jewish kippas, and Muslim headscarves.