Dress Code

French Muslim girl banned from school for wearing “religious” long skirt

Veiled pupils play in a playground at the Alif private Muslim school in the French southwestern city of Toulouse. (ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images)

A 16-year old French girl of Portuguese origin, who converted to Islam about a year ago, has been barred from attending her high school in Montereau-Fault-Yonne, in the Paris suburbs, because her headteacher claims the long skirts she wears are an “ostentatious religious symbol.” A 2004 law prohibits any such symbols in all French state schools, which are supposed to be secular — so while students are allowed to wear a long skirt as a “fashion statement,” they are prohibited from wearing such attire when it’s meant to express any religious allegiance. While some schools have started interpreting long skirts as religious symbols affiliated with Islam, most others have not, and the council of state (which rules on the meaning of French laws) has yet to decide on this particular instance. The girl, who converted from Catholicism to Islam with the approval of her family, had been under investigation by the French education system to see if she was radicalizing, and officials had decided she was not.

The girl’s parents have been talking with the school in order to try to resolve the dispute. “My daughter respects the law,” her mother told French magazine L’Obs. “I respect her religion. Until now, the school has made no comment on the way she dresses. Apart from chattering in class, she has no problems and doesn’t say much about her conversion. People shouldn’t jump to conclusions.” A spokesperson for the school claimed the talks had not gone entirely smoothly, but said they would resume on Monday. “It is in everyone’s interest that this young woman should pursue her schooling normally. A long dress or skirt is not, in itself, a motive for excluding a pupil,” he told the press.

Read the full story at The Independent.

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