They want halal food, and they don’t want to be taught about the Holocaust. The report here calls for teachers to reaffirm France’s secular principles — but of course they will encounter a core of Muslims in France who will never accept those principles. Will the French hold firm then, or capitulate? “Religious demands rise in French state schools: study,” by Tom Heneghan for Reuters, October 25 (thanks to Elias):
PARIS (Reuters) – Muslim pupils and parents in France are increasingly making religious demands on the state school system that teachers should rebuff by explaining the country’s secular principles, according to an official report.
The High Council for Integration (HCI) reported growing problems with pupils of immigrant backgrounds who object to courses about the Holocaust, the Crusades or evolution, demand halal meals and “reject French culture and its values.”
“It is becoming difficult for teachers to resist religious pressures,” said the report, published in draft form by the newspaper Journal du Dimanche over the weekend. The final report will be presented to the government next month.
“We should now reaffirm secularism and train teachers how to deal with specific problems linked to the respect for this principle,” it said….
Teachers often faced objections when they taught courses about world religions, the Holocaust or France’s war in Algeria, or discussed events related to Israel and the Palestinians or American military actions in Muslim countries, the study said.
“Teachers regularly find that Muslim parents refuse to have their children learn about Christianity,” it said. “Some think it amounts to evangelization.”
“Anti-Semitism … surfaces during courses about the Holocaust, such as inappropriate jokes and refusals to watch films” about Nazi concentration camps, it said. “Tensions often come from pupils who identify themselves as Muslims.”
Teachers found they could discuss the transatlantic slave trade but met criticism from pupils when they brought up the history of slavery within Africa or in the Middle East.
Reflecting the promotion of anti-Darwinist thinking in Muslim countries, “evolution is challenged by pupils who posit divine or creationist action without any argument for it.”
In some areas with large immigrant populations, many pupils shun school cafeterias for religious reasons, even though most offer alternative dishes when pork is on the menu.
“Demand for halal menus is strong, even for the very young in public creches,” it said. “In some cities, there are petitions for halal — and sometimes kosher — meals.”…
During Ramadan, some Muslim pupils harass others who don’t observe the annual daytime fast, it said. Boys who identify themselves as Muslims and reject French values harass girls who do well in class as “collaborators” with the “dirty French.”
Some girls ask to be excused from gymnasium or pool sessions because they are not supposed to mix with boys, it added.
The report said French schools must insist on co-education, equal rights and mutual respect. “Being a French citizen means accepting challenges to one’s opinions … this is the price to pay for the freedom of opinion and expression.
“Must we recall that the crime of blasphemy has not existed in France since the French Revolution?” it asked….