France takes steps to remind citizens of ban on religion in schools
This week, France’s Education Minister Vincent Peillon unveiled a 15-point statement aimed at reinforcing rules banning religion from its schools.
The “Charter for Secularity in School,” is to be displayed in poster form in every state-funded French school.
The statement contains nothing new legally speaking.
Instead, Peillon says, it represents an attempt to promote better understanding, and more consistent enforcement, of long-established principles which have their roots in the anti-clericalism of the French revolution and the country’s 1905 law enforcing a strict separation of church and state.
Peillon’s initiative was greeted coolly by leaders of France’s five million Muslims, some of whom see the aggressive promotion of secularity as an assault on their culture and traditions.
Recent years have seen a string of legal disputes arising from the exclusion from school of girls wearing headscarves in defiance of a 2004 law which prohibits the wearing of “ostentatious” religious symbols.
Dalil Boubakeur, the chairman of the French Muslim Council, said the charter’s emphasis on that law and to the equality of girls and boys amounted to “allusions” to Islam which would trigger concern in the community.