French far right leader Marine Le Pen has said halal food will not be served in school canteens. She said “religious demands” will not be accepted for school menus in the eleven towns where her party, the Front National, has mayors.
Speaking to French Radio RTL, Le Pen confirmed that if pork had been removed from menus, it would be brought back.
Le Pen’s statements are being seen as a direct attack on France’s Jewish and Muslim populations. Her anti-immigration party is often seen as taking positions that are antagonistic to France’s religious minorities.
France is home to the biggest Muslim minority in Europe and the right wing often brandishes ‘laïcité’ or the law on secularism at them.
An emotive issue in France, the idea of ‘laïcité’ harks back to the French revolution that led to the separation of the state and the church.
Enshrined in the legal system, French secularism requires religion to be relegated to the private sphere.
The state does recognise nor subsidise any religion. The Islamic headscarf, along with other “ostentatious religious symbols”, was banned from public schools in France in 2004.
Marine Le Pen has also made derogatory remarks in the past about Muslims offering prayers in streets and people being made to eat halal meat unwittingly.