UK school threatens court action against Muslim girl’s family over ‘too long’ skirt

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Jeddah – Yasmine El Tohamy – LONDON: A British school has threatened the family of a Muslim student with legal action for refusing to send her to school with a shorter skirt, the Daily Mail newspaper reported on Monday.

Siham Hamud, 12, had been wearing an ankle-length skirt to Uxbridge High School for years, but was last month told that her clothing broke its uniform rules.

Her father said she was sent home from school to change every day in December, and told to come back wearing the correct uniform, but she refused on the basis of her religious beliefs.

The school mandates that girls wear black trousers or a black pleated skirt from official suppliers, which the family says falls above the knee.

A letter sent by the school to the family said: “Siham’s absence is being recorded as unauthorised. Unauthorised absence may result in a fine being issued, or legal action being taken against the adults who have parental responsibility or day-to-day care of your child. Legal action can be in the form of a penalty notice or a summons to the magistrates’ court.”

Hamud and her family have refused to budge, saying the policy violates her rights to freedom of religion.

“My daughter is being denied an education because of her religious beliefs,” her father said. “All Siham wants to do is to wear a skirt which is a few centimeters longer than her classmates, and I don’t know why the school has such a problem with this. She isn’t going to change her beliefs in an hour.”

Hamud said she normally likes school, but the dispute has started to affect her experience and education.

“I think they should just let me wear my school uniform to school. I like school normally, and English, drama and RE (religious education) are my favorite lessons, but I couldn’t attend,” she added.

“I find it annoying because I’ve missed a month of school, so I have to catch up a lot. I feel confused and annoyed that I can’t wear what I want for my religion. I hope they’ll change their rules so that girls like me wear skirts to school. They aren’t accepting me for my religion, and that’s wrong.”

The freedom to openly practice religion, including by wearing chosen clothing, is a protected right in the UK, but schools have intermittently found themselves embroiled in controversies when that freedom clashes with uniform rules.

Nigel Clemens, Uxbridge High School’s principal, said: “This matter is currently subject to examination through the formal school complaints policy. It would therefore not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

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