The father of a girl who was turned away from a French state school for wearing the banned abaya has been arrested for allegedly making death threats to its headmaster.
President Emmanuel Macron’s administration announced last month it was banning the abaya, a long, full-body tunic, in schools, saying it broke the rules on secularism in education.
The same legislation has already seen Muslim headscarves forbidden on the grounds that they constitute a display of “conspicuous” religious affiliation.
The father, who has not been named, was detained for questioning in Clermont-Ferrand, central France, on suspicion of “threats with a view to intimidating a person tasked with a public service mission”, said local prosecutor Dominique Puechmaille.
The man allegedly made the death threats over the phone after his daughter was turned away from her secondary school on Thursday – one of several dozen pupils around France who refused to take off the garment amid the return to school this week after the summer break.
The prosecutor said the man would receive a “direct summons” and be placed under “judicial control”.
Gabriel Attal, France’s education minister, said on Monday the ban had largely gone smoothly. He said that among 300 girls who had turned up in abayas, some 67 had been sent home for refusing to take the garment off out of a total of 12 million pupils.
President Macron came in for criticism this week from Muslims and Left-wing opponents for saying the abaya ban was a consequence of the gruesome murder of teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist terrorist outside his school in 2020.
Mr Macron said the dress was being used by Islamists to challenge the French system and its exclusion of religion from state activities.
On Thursday, the State Council, France’s highest court for complaints against government authorities, rejected a motion by an association for an injunction against the ban and said it was not discriminatory towards Muslims.
Security services this week alerted the Government to a surge in anti-French rhetoric internationally on social media and in the press, largely originating from Turkey, after schools started enforcing the abaya ban.
According to an interior ministry intelligence note, a significant proportion of claims accusing the French state of “oppression of Muslims” appeared to be driven by the International Organisation to Support the Prophet of Islam – a group based in Istanbul closely associated with the radical Muslim Brotherhood.
They included a false claim that 12 per cent of women in France have been raped, according to the report, which was leaked to Le Parisien.
Vitriolic attacks on France’s “state Islamophobia” have also come from the Turkish English-language television channel TRT World.
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