The CFCM has taken note of the decision of the Council of State, of this Thursday, September 7, 2023, endorsing the ban on the wearing of the “abaya” in schools, colleges and high schools. In its decision, the Council of State provided important clarification on what justifies the ban on this garment by qualifying it as clothing that ” do immediately recognize the person who wears it as belonging to the Muslim religion.” It therefore delimits the perimeter of the ban which must apply to these long dresses which in themselves and immediately reveal belonging to the Muslim religion.
However, it is clear that in practice, numerous testimonies indicate discriminatory behavior on the part of some towards Muslim students. Clothing, including the “kimono” or a simple loose shirt and pants, which do not reveal by themselves and immediately belonging to a religion, would have been prohibited in certain establishments, for young so-called “Muslim” girls. These same clothes would have been authorized for their supposedly “non-Muslim” comrades.
While the stated intention of the public authorities is to enforce the principle of secularism in educational establishments and to guarantee all students the same chances of emancipation, this absurd situation of discrimination and “double standards”, if it is confirmed, is a serious attack on the principles and values of the Republic. It could lastingly traumatize the young girls who are its victims and significantly compromise their education and their future.
Furthermore, certain surreal scenes appeared live on television where young teenage girls were subjected to real interrogations about their choice of clothing and their religiosity. Similar interrogations reportedly occurred in certain educational establishments. Ultimately, what is felt, rightly or wrongly, as a clothing police gradually and dangerously drifts towards a conscience police with all its harmful consequences.
Preventing a girl from wearing clothing which is not an ostentatious religious sign and which can be worn indiscriminately by her fellow Muslims or not, under the pretext that it allows the girl to remain in conformity with her religious conviction, is clearly contrary to the The spirit and letter of the Law of March 2004. The aim of this law is to prevent the ostentatious display of a student’s religious affiliation in schools, colleges and high schools. It is in no way intended to probe the religious beliefs of students and even less to force them to abandon them.
Despite these reprehensible excesses and these endless controversies, the CFCM regrets and rejects the accusations of systemic Islamophobia in France. In its constant position, the CFCM has always refused this accusation, which in addition to being false, will only exacerbate division and discord within our country. The Muslims of France have confidence in the principles and values of the Republic which inspire the vast majority of our fellow citizens.
The strength of a State of Law is the strict respect of its principles and its resistance to the temptations of arbitrariness, including in the worst situations of adversity. Preserving young girls against obscurantist and extremist ideologies and protecting them against all pressure and proselytism is a noble mission that we must ensure by using legal means consistent with our republican ideals. The day we deviate from the principles that founded our Republic, under the pretext that it is tested by extremists, we will have offered the latter a victory they would never have dreamed of.
The CFCM launches a strong appeal to the vital forces of the Nation who must absolutely pull themselves together. Secularism is a fundamental principle and a shield that protects and unites us. It is our duty to continue to temper the ardor of some in their words and behavior, to denounce the abuses that harm living together and to renew, more than ever, our calls for reason.
Paris, September 7, 2023
The French Council of Muslim Worship