PARIS - A French Muslim family is going to court to sue a school for discrimination and harassment after segregating their daughter from her classmates for wearing a five-centimeter-wide headband and a long skirt that was deemed too religious.
She was wearing a headband just five centimeters wide and a long skirt and the school authorities decided these were religious symbols, the 15-year-old's mother was quoted by France 24 on Friday, April 5.
What utter nonsense.
The girl, a student at the school at Villiers-sur-Marne southeast of Paris, was wearing a headband and skirt covering her trousers.
Considering her outfit too religious, the school teachers decided to segregate the girl from her classmates.
Teachers also cited France's strict rules forbidding pupils from wearing religious symbols, be they Muslim veils, Christian crosses or Jewish skullcaps.
The teenager was forced to spend her entire time at school in a classroom on her own where she was set educational tasks by her teachers while she refused to change her dress.
In mid-March a local magistrate ruled that her exclusion from normal school life was unlawful and ordered her immediate reintegration.
Rejecting the school's decision, her family, with the support of the French anti-Islamophobia Association (CCIF), said they will sue the school discrimination and harassment.
The case comes amid a controversy that followed a ruling by France's top court that the dismissal of a Muslim woman from a private nursery school for refusing to remove her hijab amounted to "religious discrimination".
In an unusual move, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls criticized the ruling against the nursery school as putting secularism into question.
France is home to some six to seven million Muslims, the largest Muslim minority in Europe.
The French obsession with the Muslim veil in all its forms is partly rooted in the country's attachment to secularism.
Over the past decade, France has passed a number of controversial laws restricting the wearing of religious symbols in public areas.
In 2004, France banned Muslims from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places. Several European countries followed the French example.
France also outlawed the wearing of face-veil in public in 2011.
France is home to a Muslim minority of six millions, Europe's largest.
In October, a poll by Ifop's opinion department found that almost half of French see Muslims as a threat to their national identity.
The poll also found that most French see Islam is playing too influential role in their society.
In January, another poll by Ipsos and the Jean-Jaures Foundation found that French are growing concerned with immigrants, politicians, globalization and media, with 74 percent believe Islam is not compatible with French society.