The French government says pupils in state-run schools will be banned from wearing abayas, loose-fitting full-length robes worn by some Muslim women.
Gabriel Attal, France’s education minister, described the abaya as “a religious gesture, aimed at testing the resistance of the republic toward the secular sanctuary that school must constitute”.
“When you walk into a classroom, you shouldn’t be able to identify the pupils’ religion just by looking at them,” Attal said.
“I have decided that the abaya could no longer be worn in schools.”
The minister spoke in an interview with France’s TF1 TV on Sunday.
He said he would give clear rules on how schools should proceed with the ban, adding that “secularism means the freedom to emancipate oneself through school”.
France has a strict ban on religious signs in state schools and government buildings, arguing that they violate secular laws.
Traditional Catholic influence has long been removed from public education while head scarves have been banned as far back as 2004.
In 2010, the government also passed a ban on full face veils, a move that drew heavy criticisms from its Muslim community.
The new rule on abayas is expected to take effect from September 4 when the fresh school year starts in France.