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France: Controversy surrounds French education minister’s decision to ban abaya in secondary schools

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Reactions were mixed in Paris on Wednesday regarding the announcement by the French Education Minister to prohibit the wearing of the abaya (cloak), a traditional full-body covering, in the country’s secondary schools starting September 4.

Marie, a local resident, expressed her frustration with the cyclical nature of clothing regulations.

“One year it’s the scarf, the next it’s something else. You can always measure women’s clothing. Why don’t we measure the length of men’s trousers? They’ve had enough. And then, it’s really to distract from problems that are much more important than the length of dresses!,” she remarked.

Francoise, another local resident, shared her perspective on the matter, focusing on the integration of different generations.

“The first generations have evolved and integrated. The latest arrivals don’t want to integrate. So the problem is that it creates dissension. And I fully understand that in the suburbs it’s not always easy,” she explained.

Martine, echoing a different sentiment, expressed support for the ban, framing it as an issue of religious symbolism.

“I think it’s right to ban it. No religious symbol, that’s a religious symbol, so we simply ban it, » Martine stated.

On the other hand, a local resident highlighted the principle of personal freedom in the context of the ban.

“It seems to me that we are a country governed by the rule of law. Everyone is free to dress as they please. We see young girls and women dressing sexily at school or at work. Now, if a girl, because she’s Muslim, wants to dress in an abaya to go to school, she’s forbidden to do so. I don’t think that’s right,” he stressed.

The diversity of opinions among local residents reflects the complex nature of the issue, highlighting the ongoing challenge of balancing tradition, identity, and societal norms in an increasingly interconnected world.

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