Eat pork or go hungry, France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pentells tells schools
Elham Asaad Buaras
Leader of France’s far-right Front National (FN), Marine Le Pen has vowed to stop non-pork meal options in school canteens in towns where her party won local elections.
Le Pen reignited debate about the substitution meals targeting Muslim and Jewish pupils for whom pork is forbidden.
“We will accept no religious requirements in the school lunch menus. There is no reason for religion to enter into the public sphere,” said Le Pen.
She defended the decision saying it was necessary to “save secularism”.
The FN, won control of 11 towns and more than 1,400 municipal seats nationwide in local elections on March 30, its best ever local election results.
Many Muslims view France, which is officially a secular republic despite being overwhelmingly Catholic, as imposing its values on them and other religious minorities.
France has Europe’s largest number of Muslims, some 6.5 million.
The issue of halal meat is also a controversial topic in France and has been used as a political football.
Le Pen had launched a fierce row before the last presidential polls in 2012 by claiming that non-Muslim consumers in the capital were being misled into buying halal meat.
There has been controversy in the past over whether schools and holiday camps should be required to provide halal food for Muslim children, as well as higher-profile disputes over the wearing of veils in France.
Any form of clothing linked to religious observance is banned from French state schools and since 2011 the wearing of full-face veils in public has been outlawed.
Director General of the European Jewish Association (EJA), Menachem Margolin, said Le Pen’s call “undermines religious freedom” in France and urged “all enlightened forces in France and the European Union to unite against the exclusion of entire populations from educational institutions in the country.”
“It is truly sad that in the French Republic which was founded in the spirit of Voltaire’s famous phrase: “’I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it,” there are those who wish to prevent law obeying citizens from expressing their faith in God,” Margolin added.