French fashion is making headlines in an unexpected way this past week.
France is known for its strict laws on laïcité, which means secularism. The laws are meant to completely separate religion and government and the public. Many French citizens are offended by the presence of religious symbols, and find them excessive symbols of identity. Sarah K., a 15-year-old girl attending at the Léo Lagrange secondary school in Charleville-Mézières, has been sent home twice for wearing a plain, “nothing special” black skirt that the officials felt was too long, and represented her Muslim faith. She is one of 130 different girls with similar cases, primarily for long skirts or “too broad” headbands and even sweaters, since the 2004 law that forbid students in elementary and secondary schooling from wearing religious symbols.
A french muslim student gets sent home after her skirt was too religious. Would they say the same if Kate visited? pic.twitter.com/El20i9UJ8N
— Sara (@_sara_25_) April 29, 2015
Officials Issues with Skirts aren’t the First
Elsa Ray of the Collectif contre l’Islamophobie en France said that it has become “a huge problem,” identifying their documentation of 130 cases that are just like Sarah K.’s. The 2004 law has recently been invoked to restrict Muslim women’s choice of concealing wear, though it also demonstrates the gap between officials and Muslims about the rules of secularism. According to the school officials, they saw her remove her head scarf before entering her school, but they assumed her long skirt identified her as Muslim. The education director for Ardennes, which includes the school, said that it “isn’t how long the skirt is. They come with an outfit that shows an affiliation that we respect. But once at school, you have to return to a republican and secular space – but they only remove the veil.” He added that they asked her “to come back with a neutral outfit.”
What Sarah K. Had to Say
Sarah K. told L’Ardennais, the local newspaper, that her skirt wasn’t religious. A photo of her outfit is shown along with her piece, in which she says “the skirt was really nothing special. It was very simple. There was nothing ostentatious about it.” Her mother shared that she and her family were observant, though many of them didn’t wear their head scarves. Sarah K. had only recently begun to wear hers, and “every morning when she gets to school, she takes it off because she knows it’s forbidden.” She has many supporters sharing photos that mock the school’s choice and make comparisons to many other people. Many studies have uncovered that Muslims in France are frequently facing biases against them as well as immigrants of the country. They face systematic discrimination of all types. Reporter Xeni Jardin caught the full voice of the anger people are feeling for this with her headline: France to 15 Year Old Girl: Wear a Shorter Skirt or You Can’t Get an Education. A Twitter user, AJ+, tweeted this video about the situation:
— AJ+ (@ajplus) April 29, 2015