The Council of State announced Thursday, September 7, the rejection of the appeal against the government’s decision to prohibit the wearing of the abaya and qamis at school. He estimated that “the ban on wearing these clothes did not constitute a serious and manifestly illegal violation of a fundamental freedom”.
The Council of State notes in fact that the wearing of the abaya and the qamis within educational establishments “resulted in a sharp increase in the number of reports during the 2022-2023 school year” and that he “is part of a logic of religious affirmation, as is apparent in particular from the remarks made during the dialogues undertaken with the pupils”. However, recalls the administrative judge, “ the law prohibits, within the precincts of public schools, the wearing by pupils of signs or outfits ostensibly manifesting, either by themselves or because of the behavior of the pupil, membership of a religion”.
A decision that does not close the debate
This interim decision does not, however, close the legal debate which will be decided later on the merits. The Council of State takes the precaution of specifying that its analysis is made “as the instructions stand” and on the basis of feedback from the ministry on the fact that wearing these outfits “is generally accompanied (…) by a discourse highlighting the reasons linked to religious practice, inspired by arguments disseminated on social networks”.
The Council of State examined on Tuesday a summary freedom order which requested the suspension of the decision of August 27, 2023 of the Minister of Education prohibiting the wearing of this long traditional dress, in public schools, colleges and high schools. During the hearing, the magistrates questioned the parties on two key issues, namely the degree of urgency of the situation and whether this administrative measure is tainted with ” manifest inequality likely to infringe a fundamental freedom”.
“Risk of ethnic profiling”
The association Action Droits des Musulmans (ADM) had urgently contacted the Council of State on Friday, September 1, asking it to suspend “the decision of August 27, 2023” of the Minister of Education prohibiting the wearing of the abaya, this long traditional dress, in public schools, colleges and high schools, according to the appeal filed by Me William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth.
The plaintiffs considered that the ban ” violation of the rights of the child, because it mainly targets children presumed to be Muslim, thus creating a risk of ethnic profiling at school”. “This restriction of the abaya risks further stigmatizing Muslims and undermining their fundamental social, cultural and educational rights”they added.
In practice, these measures “will lead school staff to unfairly target young girls based on their Arab or African ethnic origins”, they judged. Such targeting would be “counterproductive and could lead to the exclusion of young girls from the education system”denounced the authors of the appeal.