French ban on abaya disturbing - GulfToday

French ban on abaya disturbing

Shaadaab S. Bakht


Shaadaab S. Bakht, who worked for famous Indian dailies The Telegraph, The Pioneer, The Sentinel and wrote political commentaries for, is Gulf Today’s Executive Editor.


As I understand Islam and its history, and I think I understand them right, the Prophet (PBUH) was a political liberal. Islam’s stated position on religion makes that abundantly clear.

The Holy Quran says there is no compulsion in religion. To take the argument forward: In the Madinah Charter, the Prophet (PBUH) spoke of absolute tolerance, absolute freedom and absolutely no discrimination against those who didn’t share his faith. And it is then when the seeds of liberty were sowed. Not by self-regarding religious campaigners, not degree holders in political science, but by the Prophet (PBUH) himself.

…The minister is freezing a citizen’s basic freedom

Therefore, when an educated politician or a well established academic or a popular artist or an ultra-modern administration charges Muslims with illiberality and violation of secular law simply for refusing to doff the hijab or the abaya it leaves one very angry.

The anger deepens when the charge is levelled by someone as important as a minister from the land of liberty, France.

Pupils have been banned from wearing abayas, loose-fitting full-length robes worn by some Muslim women, in France’s state-run schools, Education Minister Gabriel Attal said.

France has a strict ban on religious signs in state schools and government buildings, arguing that they violate secular laws.

Wearing a headscarf has been banned since 2004 in state-run schools.

“I have decided that the abaya could no longer be worn in schools,” the minister said.

The garment is being increasingly worn in schools, leading to a political divide over them, with right-wing parties pushing for a ban while those on the left have voiced concerns for the rights of Muslim women and girls.

“Secularism means the freedom to emancipate oneself through school,” Attal said arguing the abaya is “a religious gesture, aimed at testing the resistance of the republic toward the secular sanctuary that schools must constitute.”

It is not a religious gesture. It is a part of a community’s culture. If some women like wearing gowns, why shouldn’t some be allowed to wear abayas? If some women like wearing pants, why shouldn’t some be allowed to wear loose-fitting robes? If some women like sporting hats, why shouldn’t some be allowed to wear headscarves?

Being a Frenchman he should be knowing that the soul of liberty is the right to choose. And not its forfeiture.

By enforcing the ban the minister is freezing a citizen’s basic freedom and clearly encouraging a cultural blitz on a hapless minority, whose well-being and not subjugation is his responsibility.  

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