The debate on the wearing of the abaya at school took a two-hour detour to the Place du Palais-Royal, seat of the Council of State, in Paris, Tuesday, September 5. Two hours of tense, pionate and sometimes disorderly discussions before the highest administrative court, seized of a request for interim release filed by lawyers William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth on behalf of the ociation Action Droits des Musulmans (ADM), founded in 2015 to fight against the measures it deems “Islamophobes”in order to obtain the suspension of the memorandum from the Ministry of National Education prohibiting the wearing of the abaya and the qamis in the school area.
Seated opposite, in defence, five representatives of the Ministry of National Education and Youth: alone Guillaume Odinet, Director of Legal Affairs, spoke on behalf of the State. With the exception of Sihem Zine, the founder of ADM, and a judge – who did not speak – isting the president of the summary hearing, there were only men for this legal debate on this garment worn by young Muslim women.
For an interim release to be accepted, two things must be demonstrated: the urgency to act because of the damage suffered as well as a serious and manifestly illegal violation of fundamental freedoms. All the points were fiercely discussed by the two parties under the watchful eye of President Pierre Collin, who regularly tried to reframe the debates. Before that, the ociation Jeunesse France Harcèlement, which had wanted to join the request, was deemed inadmissible for lack of interest in acting.
The gist of Mr.e Vincent Brengarth revolved around the fact that the state had made a major change by deciding to completely ban the abaya at school on the eve of the start of the school year. A shift from the previous school year, where the question of the ban was left to the discretion of the head of each school. Hence the urgency to rule to avoid the exclusion of dozens, even hundreds, of students. The lawyer cited in his brief in response to that of the defense several cases collected Monday evening by the ADM ociation of young girls banned from school on the day of the start of the school year.
Two recurring questions
From the point of view of the Ministry of National Education, the memorandum of August 31, accompanied by a letter to the parents of pupils to explain the content and the approach, is only an update of the law of 2004 banning conspicuous religious signs in schools, whether the Islamic veil, the yarmulke or grossly disproportionate crosses. For the defence, there is therefore no new fact, nothing other than a memo clarifying the application of an existing text and responding to the request for clarification from the heads of establishments faced with the spectacular growth of the abaya as a community and Muslim marker in the school space, attested, according to Mr. Odinet, by the explosion of attacks on secularism in the monthly barometer kept by the services of his ministry. The national education lawyer cites in support of his demonstration the ban on permanent bandanas in lieu of headscarves endorsed by the Council of State in the past.
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