Elham Asaad Buaras
A 15-year-old Muslim girl was banned from her class twice in the French town of Charleville-Mezieres for wearing a skirt that was too long and therefore supposedly a conspicuous display of religion.
France’s state secularism has led to very strict laws prohibiting students from wearing overtly religious symbols in institutions of education. The law came into effect on September 2 2004.
The student, identified as Sarah, already apparently removed her headscarf before entering the school, in accordance with French law. But her long skirt was deemed a “provocation,” and potential act of protest.
“The girl was not excluded, she was asked to come back with a neutral outfit,” said a school official. The news sparked an outcry on social media, with commentators remarking on the hypocrisy and bigotry lurking beneath Sarah’s treatment.
— Islamic Women (@Islamic_Women) May 16, 2015
Women can wear long black dresses for fashion, but when a Muslim wears the same black dress, it becomes offensive?#JePorteMaJuppeCommeJeVeux
— M (@malihajay) April 30, 2015
Public reaction to the news that a school was banned from her class France for wearing a skirt that was too long
Critics of France’s secularist laws in schools say they often thinly conceal a widespread bias against Muslims and immigrants in French society. Studies have revealed how Muslims face systematic discrimination on the basis of their race, creed and culture.
Sarah said her skirt was “nothing special, it’s very simple, there’s nothing conspicuous. There is no religious sign whatsoever.”
Anti-Islamophobia group Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF) say they are “appalled” by the incident. The group says last year its legal department has “dealt with almost a hundred” of similar cases.
CCIF spokeswoman, Elsa Ray, told The Muslim News, “Muslims girls are being bullied at school by the teachers or the head of the school because they wear long skirts or blouse and as they are Muslims and – for most of them – wear the hijab outside the school, the school considers their clothes as ‘Islamic’ and ‘ostentatious’.”
“The hysteria on this matter shows how much France does not understand the concept of laïcité, and worse, use it as a weapon to exclude and harass Muslims.”
She added Muslim girls, “already make a great effort to remove their headscarf before entering school, now they want to forbid them to wear whatever they want to wear because they are Muslims. How far France will go? ”
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch said France is “carrying secularism too far.”