France to sue student it says falsely accused principal of forcibly removing headscarf

A French high school student is being sued by the government for falsely accusing her former principal of assaulting her after he made her remove her headscarf on school premises, the country’s prime minister said Wednesday.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said the government would “always stand with these officials, those who are on the front line faced with these breaches of secularism, these attempts of Islamist penetration in our education establishments.”

He made the comments in an interview with French broadcaster TF1.

Secularism in France, particularly involving the country’s Muslim population, Europe’s largest, has long been a flashpoint. Last year France banned the abaya – a long, robe-like garment often worn by Muslim women – despite warnings its prohibition was discriminatory.

The teacher had asked the young woman to remove her headscarf while on the premises of the Maurice Ravel Lycée school in Paris, in line with French law, which bans religious symbols from state institutions.

The student refused and “looked to intimidate” the school principal by accusing him of having physically assaulted her while removing her headscarf, Attal said.