A 15-year-old Muslim girl in France was not allowed to attend classes because her skirt was deemed too ostentatious of a religious symbol. In France, displaying religion in public, government-funded spaces is prohibited. In concession to this law, the girl, identified as “Sarah,” removed her hijab before entering the school. But this was not enough for the school. They also wanted her to remove her skirt, because they’ve decided that it is too Islamic.
First of all, before we get into debates on the morality of the law, let’s examine their logic. A black skirt is not a religious symbol. It is not exclusive to Muslims, and it is not mandated by Islam. The school’s argument is because many Muslim girls were wearing black skirts, it became a marker of religious identity. That means that the only thing that makes the skirt Muslim is that it was worn by a Muslim. Would any one have cared if a Christian classmate of Sarah’s was wearing a long black skirt? If the answer is no, then that means the school is deliberately treating students differently on the basis of their religious identity. This is the exact circumstance that the original ban on displaying religion was meant to avoid.
It is completely ridiculous to argue that she was in any way disrespecting the rule by wearing her skirt. The girls, even though they are Muslim, have the right to wear whatever skirts they want to wear. Would it cause a similar uproar if this group of friends all decided to wear matching friendship bracelets? France has gone way too far in their micromanaging of people’s personal choices.
Over there in France, they have made a god of secularism. They have created a system in which certain beliefs are privileged, and others are not even permitted. It is religious extremism, but in another form. This is a dangerous ideology in which the personal choices of citizens have somehow become the business of the government. It is part of a policy of enforced assimilation.
The question we need to ask ourselves is how committed are we to the question of religious freedom? Do we believe that people should be treated differently by the government on the basis of their religious affiliation? Because that is exactly what’s happening here.