The incident stresses the rise of Islamophobic discrimination in the United Kingdom.
Rabat – A 12-year-old Muslim school girl in the United Kingdom is facing expulsion for “refusing to wear a short skirt.” The young girl, Siham Hamud, is a student at Uxbridge Highschool in Middlesex, England.
In December, the school administration sent Hamud home for wearing an ankle-length skirt claiming it was a “disciplinary issue” that violates the school’s dress code. The school refused her entry each day for almost a month as she declined to wear a shorter skirt.
The Muslim girl, now attending school online due to COVID-19 procedures, described the skirt experience as bullyism for her religious beliefs and choice of attire. In a statement to the Guardian, Hamud expressed sadness for not being accepted as she is.
“It makes me feel left out because I can’t see my friends. They aren’t accepting me for my religion and that’s wrong,” the young girl told the Guardian.
After refusing to allow Hamud on school grounds, the administration sent a letter to her family on December 9 threatening to pursue legal action. The administration intends to sue Hamud’s parents for their child’s “unauthorized absence.”
The young Muslim girl’s father, Idris, explained that the decision to wear a longer skirt to school is hers.
“She used to love school, but now she goes to school crying because of this – it’s heartbreaking,” he said.
Unlike other European countries, including France and Belgium, the UK has not officially banned the wearing of the hijab in schools. However, individual schools can implement their own dress code which has led to some cases of a hijab ban or more discrete restrictions like in the case of Siham Hamud.
Rise of Islamophobia in the United Kingdom
Siham’s is not simply an anecdotal incident, it is a testament to rising Islamophobia in the United Kingdom and on the European continent more generally.
A 2018 study on Gendered Islamophobia that UK-based organization Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks (MAMA) conducted found that following trigger events such as the Manchester arena bombing, the UK has experienced an increase in reported anti-Muslim hostility within schools in England and Wales. In 2017 alone, there were 839 incidents of Islamophobia reported, amongst which 6% occurred in educational institutions.
The school refusing the Muslim girl entry for her skirt recalls the horrifying video that surfaced online in October 2017 depicting Jamal, a 15-year-old Syrian schoolboy one of his classmates was waterboarding. After years of reporting bullying, the school ignored his plea for help and Jamal resorted to contacting a local MP to intervene. A similar event occurred in 2019 when a 40-year-old woman attacked a Muslim teenager in Sheffield, UK for wearing a hijab. Cameras caught the incident and the video later appeared on Twitter.
Discriminatory practices against Muslims, reports the British organization, have witnessed constant growth since 2015. Muslim women bear the brunt of Islamophobic attacks. Muslim women who wear the hijab or other religious attire are hyper-visible in the public space. This could explain the gendered nature of Islamophobic attacks.
In a response to the worrying trend of Islamophobic discrimination, the UK appointed an independent advisor to give expert advice on Islamophobia in the summer of 2020. Imam Qari Asim MBE, Deputy Chair of the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, is working to develop an adequate legal framework to define and tackle Islamophobia.