Siham also states, “It makes me feel left out, because I can’t see my friends either. They aren’t accepting me for my religion and that’s wrong.”
Siham Hamud, a 12-year-old student who attends Uxbridge High School in West London, claims she has worn an ankle-length skirt to school for many years. The young girl and her family have now been told that her length of skirt violates the school’s dress codes. She was sent home every school day in December 2020 and told to come back wearing the correct uniform.
Siham has defiantly refused to wear a shorter skirt because it goes against her religious beliefs. She told The Telegraph,
It feels like bullying because of what I believe. I think they should just let me wear my school uniform to school…I feel confused and annoyed that I can’t wear what I want for my religion.”
The school has now reportedly sent her father and his wife a letter threatening legal action. It 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.”
Uxbridge High School website states that girls should wear black trousers or a black pleated skirt from official uniform suppliers – and the skirt falls above the knee.
Her father, Idris Hamud, 55, told The Telegraph, “All Siham wants to do is to wear a skirt which is a few centimetres longer than her classmates—and I don’t know why the school has such a problem with this.” Her father said they follow a branch of Islam which states women should only wear long skirts, and he intends to fight all legal action brought by the school. Her older sisters Sumayyah, 19, and Ilham, 17, have previously both worn the longer skirts, which match the school colours without any issues.
Would it really be so negative or a big hindrance for the school to progressively update their rules to cater to students’ religious beliefs? According to gov.uk, “Schools can decide if girls can wear trousers, or if religious dress is allowed.” And furthermore according to guidance for school uniforms by the Department of Education,
“Where a school has good reason for restricting an individual’s freedoms, for example, the promotion of cohesion and good order in the school, or genuine health and safety or security considerations, the restriction of an individual’s rights to manifest their religion or belief may be justified. The school must balance the rights of individual pupils against the best interests of the school community as a whole. Nevertheless, it should be possible for most religious requirements to be met within a school uniform policy and a governing body should act reasonably through consultation and dialogue in accommodating these.”
One could also argue that sending her home because of her long skirt is a form of ‘othering.’ Siham also states, “It makes me feel left out, because I can’t see my friends either. They aren’t accepting me for my religion and that’s wrong.”
She is currently attending school online because of the latest COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, but it is likely the situation will continue once she is back at school. The school’s principal, Nigel Clemens, 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.”
So is this refusal to wear trousers as an alternative from Siham justified? In some aspects, one could argue yes. The young girl and her parents clearly feel that wearing trousers goes against their own personal Islamic beliefs. If wearing a longer skirt helps this diligent student focus on her studies comfortably without compromising her faith, the school may need to evaluate its policies to be more inclusive of other religious beliefs. The threat of legal action has been perceived as immoderate and sets a dangerous precedent.