Nusrat Qadir: France Skirting Issue

Featured Contributor Nusrat Qadir responds to a French school’s decision to send a 15-year-old girl home from school because her skirt was too long and could be construed as a religious garment.

While the it is obvious to some that wearing a yamulke or hijab is a sign of religious affiliation, France has also determined that wearing a skirt is offensive to their secular beliefs. According to French media reports a 15-year-old girl was banned from her class twice for wearing a skirt that was too long and was seen as an obvious display of religion. Despite this Muslim young lady abiding by Frances’ strict secular laws not to wear a religious symbol in institutions of education, she was still reprimanded with her choice of modest attire in wearing a long skirt. Modest attire is something that many women choose for their own sanctity including the long skirt, leaving many perplexed as to when the long skirt became a sign of religious affiliation for Muslim women.

Paris has long since been established as a trendsetter for fashion. Now France has contradicted itself by deeming the long skirt as a religious garment, while the full length skirt has long since been deemed as vogue by the fashion capital. Skirts are one of the oldest garments known to both male and female attire. The skirt in general takes many shapes and sizes and has never been associated with any religion. Clothing in general is typically inspired by nationality, culture, economics as well as religion. There were eras within Europe during which women wore solely dresses and skirts especially by the upper class. Prior to the 19th century, skirts were consistently voluminous and long. Due to the hardships of war, women were forced to work, and trend towards a shorter skirt began. Since fashion is noted to repeat itself, the hem length of the skirt also tends to rise or fall as noted in fashion magazines by models and actresses. Maxi skirts were big in the 1970s and made a comeback in the 2000s. No one skirt length has dominated fashion for long and often the trend to wear both long and short skirts occurs simultaneously. So lets not skirt around the issue: this young lady was sent home because of her religion, not because of her attire.

To suddenly insist a long skirt is religious attire makes minimal sense and is disruptive to those who have chosen local fashion trends as a form of assimilation. This young lady abided by the law to not wear her hijab and chose a long skirt for her personal modesty. This young lady tried to balance fashion and religion in a secular society, and instead became subject to discrimination for her choice of modest fashion. While France continues to struggle with its secular reasoning against religious attire, the hemline should not be up for debate.

France needs to re-evaluate its religious attire ordinances and stop dictating the choice of a woman’s right to wear what she feels represents her sense of modesty. France could stand to learn from the wise words of worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Spiritual Leader His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad when he stated that a nation cannot progress without self-assessment. It is time that France took a look in the mirror and stop skirting the issue of religious discrimination.

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