La France Insoumise party MP Manuel Bompard (R) EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED BADRA


French hard-left to fight government ban on Islamic dress in schools


Members of France’s left-wing opposition will fight the government’s ban on Islamic dress in schools.

The prohibiting of the wearing of abayas and qamis, both traditional long-flowing Muslim robes, was announced by the education minister Gabriel Attal on August 27.

A rise in the wearing of such dress in schools has been seen as not in accordance with France’s strict principle of secularism.

Others argue the garments are not necessarily religious but rather cultural, and that banning them is effectively an attack on those from immigrant backgrounds.

Speaking to the France 2 TV channel on August 29, an MP for the hard-left La France Insoumise (LFI) party, Manuel Bompard, said any such action will “result in once again discrimination against young women and in particular young women of the Muslim faith… I think we don’t need that in our country.”

The move to ban the clothing comes amid leaked government documents that revealed a surge in violations of secularism in French educational establishments.

While many incidents simply involved the wearing of prohibited religious symbols, there was also a reported increase in disputes between teachers and students, as well as confrontations between communities and schools over the secularism policy.

Bompard said his party would take the offensive on overturning any such ban, which he called “unconstitutional”.

One of Bompard’s fellow left-wing MPs declared that the proscription was “symptomatic” of the ruling government’s “obsessive rejection of Muslims” .

Others said outlawing the wearing of such garments in schools was a waste of energy and resources. LFI MP Thomas Portes pointed out that “the teachers are understaffed … [yet] the urgency for Gabriel Attal is to police the clothing”.

Not all within Bompard’s camp are of the same opinion.

LFI forms part of the broader, loose left-wing NUPES coalition. Jérôme Guedj, an MP for the Socialist Party, said that while abayas and qamis may be cultural dress, they were being worn in schools for religious reasons.

“As soon as the abaya or the qamis are worn in an ostentatious dimension, then it must be prohibited”, he said, referring to the 2004 law that bars religious clothes in schools.

Michaël Delafosse, Socialist Mayor for the city of Montpellier, said that the ban on abayas was “a very important signal”.

“The principle of secularism must be affirmed with clarity,” he said.

Many have accused the French Left of pandering to Islamist interests, as much of their voter base includes North-African immigrants and their descendants in France. Speaking on French radio, centre-right MEP François-Xavier Bellamy accused the Left of “making a pact” with Islamism.