When the midday bell rings, small groups form at the exit of the Louise-Michel high school in Bobigny (Seine-Saint-Denis). Once through the gate, several teenage girls rush to put their veils back on. Dressed in a hidjab, a tunic and loose burgundy pants, Zaïna is categorical: the “abaya scandal” does not have to be.
This 16-year-old Muslim ” not include “ the prohibition of this garment at school. Entering into force on September 4, at the start of the school year, in public middle and high schools, the decision, validated on Thursday September 7 by the Council of State, had nevertheless already been applied in its establishment since the end of last year.
“The abaya keeps me safe”
Asked about the reasons which push her to choose this garment originally worn by women from the Gulf, this final year student first assures that, unlike the veil, this garment has not “no religious significance”. Her friend Samantha (1) adds: “Many people who are not Muslim, like me, wear an abaya like any long dress. »
But, very quickly, the arguments get mixed up, showing how difficult it is for these teenagers to separate the registers. Because it is indeed religious precepts that pushed Zaïna to adopt this outfit. “Last year, while reading the Koran, I told myself that the abaya would help preserve me”she continues in all sincerity. “Wearing only a veil with normal clothes is not legislated (this does not correspond to the standards of modesty established in his vision of Islam, Editor’s note). For example, pants are not accepted, because the legs are visible. »
“It’s an inexpensive outfit, and comfortable like pajamas! »
Having only worn an abaya ” three or four ” time in high school, his recent ban has not changed the way he dresses to come to class, but does cause him some fears: “Having to pull up my top to prove I’m wearing a long skirt and not an abaya, no thanks! »
At these words, her friend Sarah, who used to wear abayas in high school, nods, and adds: “Like everyone else, I go to school to educate myself, not to show that I am Muslim or to propagate my religion. » The 17-year-old Muslim girl often wore this outfit “when she was in a hurry in the morning” And “had nothing to wear”. “It’s an inexpensive outfit, and comfortable like pajamas! », she enthuses. The young girl says she started wearing this item of clothing in second grade, after discovering it ” at the market “, “because it was fashionable”. An argument that often came up in the mouths of the interviewees, and which is not incompatible with justifications linked to religion.
Shared indignation at the controversy
For this teenager who loves all types of loose clothing, “from jeans to long skirts”, religion did not come into play. Besides, she says to herself “quite uncomfortable” faced with the controversy aroused by this outfit and protests: “In France, we talk about freedom, but we are always told that our clothes are too short, too long or too wide. I think I’m adult enough to dress however I want! »
Was it insufficiently explained? Or are these young girls confronted – at home or on social networks – with contradictory discourse on the subject? Obviously, the ban decided by the Ministry of National Education in the name of the law on the wearing of religious symbols is not understood by some of those concerned. Maryam, in first STMG, shares Sarah’s indignation. “I have a hard time with this controversy, I have the impression that it’s Islamophobia because when it’s Buddhist hats or Christian crosses, no one says anything”regrets the Muslim woman in the turquoise veil, whose broad smile fades for a moment.
The ban on wearing the abaya in high school ” complicated “ also his life for more prosaic reasons. “I have to redo my entire wardrobe. In that case, we might as well put the uniform back in place.”she berates.
For her neither, the abaya has “nothing religious”. “I wore them from the age of 6 or 7, long before I veiled myself”, says the 16-year-old girl, who points out that the term abaya means “clothing” or “dress” in Arabic. However, in her speech too, religious moral standards and practical considerations mingle when she describes the advantages of this outfit. “This loose clothing allows you to hide your curves, to protect yourself from people’s gaze, it’s important, whether you’re Muslim or not. And then if you have complexes on your arms or legs, it helps you hide them”she believes.
The association Action Droits des Musulmans attempted to demonstrate, before the administrative judge, on Tuesday September 5, that the ban on abayas at school is discriminatory and infringes on fundamental freedoms. The Council of State did not follow this opinion by rendering its decision on Thursday September 7, considering that “the ban on wearing these clothes did not constitute a serious and manifestly illegal violation of a fundamental freedom”.