The French government's decision to ban schoolgirls wearing abayas — long, flowing dresses of Middle Eastern origin — has opened a fresh debate about the country's secular laws and the treatment of Muslim minorities.
Education Minister Gabriel Attal said Sunday that the dresses, worn by some Muslim girls, would no longer be allowed in schools as students prepared to return to their classrooms after the summer holidays.
"Our schools are being tested. These last few months, violations of our secular rules have considerably increased, particularly with regard to the wearing of religious clothing such as abayas or qamis (long male tunics)," he told reporters on Monday.
In 2004, France banned school children from wearing "signs or outfits by which students ostensibly show a religious affiliation" on the basis of the country's secular laws which are meant to guarantee neutrality in state institutions.
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