Pakistan says France ban on abaya violates freedom of human rights, religion

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A woman wearing an abaya walks through the streets of Lille, northern France. — AFP/File
A woman wearing an abaya walks through the streets of Lille, northern France. — AFP/File 
  • Foreign Office terms ban on abaya “Islamophobic”.
  • Spokesperson urges French govt to revise its decision. 
  • France says abaya violates strict secular laws.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has strongly reacted to the newly announced ban on abaya — long and loose garments worn by some Muslim women — by France saying that it violates the freedom of human rights and religion, The News reported Saturday. 

Terming the ban as “Islamophobic”, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said that restrictions in their nature are a violation of freedom, human rights, religion and freedom of expression of Muslim girls and women. 

She said the ban is a source of concern, as it is aversive to their right to demonstrate their identity. It could hinder their right to take part in meaningful and effective participation in public life.

The spokesperson impressed upon the French authorities to revise their decision to ban the abaya dress.

On August 28, the French government said that the country has decided to stop women from wearing abayas in schools as they are violating the strict secular laws of the country with over 500 establishments under scrutiny as children across the country returned to class.

The government said that the abaya broke the rules on secularism in education that have already seen Muslim headscarves banned on the grounds they constitute a display of religious affiliation. The move gladdened the political right, but the hard left argued it represented an affront to civil liberties.

“Things are going well this morning. There is no incident for the moment; we will continue all day to be vigilant so that the students understand the meaning of this rule,” said Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne as she visited a school in northern France on Monday. 

But, she added that there was a “certain number” of schools where girls had arrived wearing an abaya. “Some young girls agreed to remove it. For the others, we will have discussions with them, and use educational approaches to explain that there is a law that is being applied,” she added.

The hard left has accused the government of centrist President Emmanuel Macron of trying with the abaya ban to compete with Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally and shifting further to the right. 

The authorities had identified 513 schools that could be affected by the ban at the start of the school year. There are around 45,000 schools in France, with 12 million pupils going back to school on Monday, the day when the ban was imposed.

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