A few months ago, a 15 year-old French Muslim girl was banned from school for wearing a long black skirt. According to the principal, the skirt violated the ban of religious symbols in school. The student, named as Sarah, removed her headscarf before entering school, as is required by the 2004 French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools. She argued that her skirt was not a religious symbol.
A popular Twitter hashtag emerged #JePorteMaJupeCommeJeVeux – I wear my skirt as I like. The hashtag highlighted the online outrage over the ban.
“If it’s worn by a ‘white’ person, it’s hippy chic, if it’s a Muslim, it becomes conspicuous,” one user tweeted.
Another user tweeted, “Runway models wear long skirts / models & its haute couture, but a Muslim does it and it’s a threat to secularism.”
Liberty, equality and fraternity: these are all part of the French National Motto. However, French Muslim citizens do not seem to be treated equally when it comes to what they wear. The French not only have a problem with the niqab or hijab – the face veil and head scarf – but also long skirts, as they are now seen as conspicuously religious.
The Collective Against Islamophobia in France reported around 130 cases last year where students had been banned from the classroom for outfits that were considered too openly religious.
France is not an isolated case. A few days ago, 30 schoolgirls from Belgium were sent home from school for wearing long skirts. According to the new school rules, the principal does not authorize baggy trousers, long skirts or dresses.
The hashtag #JePorteMaJupeCommeJeVeux started trending on Twitter again.
Okay now people have officially lost it! How can one be sent home for wearing a long skirt? Is it a prostitute school? #IWearMySkirtAsILike
— ina adeertaa ? (@_munaahmd) June 2, 2015
— Amna (@AmnaAbdul1983) June 2, 2015
— Isabelle Rothstein (@BelleRothstein) June 2, 2015
Those who ban long skirts are no different than those who force the veil. #JePorteMaJupeCommeJeVeux
— IzranSalleh Shahinur (@IzranSalleh) June 2, 2015
islamophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, racism and body shaming is alive and well. let women wear what they want #JePorteMaJupeCommeJeVeux
— tamara-jade (@tamarakaz) June 2, 2015
There seems to be a recurring theme in Europe with Islamophobia, and in particular with the discrimination against Muslim women. Whether skirts are worn for religious or non-religious reasons, long skirts offer modesty, elegance, style and comfort.
A woman in the so-called liberal West should be able to wear a long, short or medium skirt. Double standards and anti-democratic principles that pigeonhole Muslim women must be addressed and condemned. European citizens in particular have a duty to help mobilize positive change, by using education as a means to combat negative stereotypes, that only serve to harm minorities and individual liberties.
Let’s be clear: Europe’s attack on the niqab, hijab and now long skirts is an attack on freedom itself.