A 15-year-old Muslim girl in northeastern France was reportedly sent back home from her school twice for wearing a “long” black skirt.
One of the girl’s teachers felt the apparel was “provocative” and a “conspicuous” display of religion – a practice banned in schools by France’s strict secularity laws – and therefore asked her to leave the class.
While the news has predictably triggered a heated debate over apparent discrimination against French Muslims, there is also a lot uncertainty as to whether the girl broke school's dress code.
A brief analysis of the case suggests that the student did not violate any rules, whatsoever. For starters, she removed her headscarf before entering the school, in accordance with French law.
Secondly, according to the 2004 law governing secularity in schools, symbols such as face veils, the Jewish kippa or large Christian crosses are banned in educational establishments, “discreet religious signs” are, however, allowed.
The school, in its defense, says “the girl was not excluded” and was asked to come back with a “neutral outfit” but her father apparently did not want the student to go back.
Also, the girl identified just as Sarah by local daily newspaper L’Ardennais, told the paper that her skirt was “nothing special, it’s very simple, there’s nothing conspicuous. There is no religious sign whatsoever.”
The student’s statement was endorsed and supported by hundreds of other people online who highlighted the hypocrisy of French authorities, many of them claiming she would’ve been treated differently had she not been a follower of Islamic faith.
The fact that the teacher “felt” the outfit was provocative is not a convincing enough justification for what happened.
On Twitter, the hashtag #JePorteMaJuppeCommeJeVeux ("I wear my skirt as I like") was trending. Here’s a list of famous non-Muslim women who wore a similar long skirt and were never accused of showing affiliation to a religion.
Kate Middleton and Angelina Jolie:
Beyoncé and Victoria Beckham: