France’s Front Nationale (National Front) leader Marine Le Pen has urged that French schools should no longer present a religious food option, claiming that “there is no reason for religion to enter into the public sphere.”
Le Pen’s remarks to RTL radio came after her right-wing populist party made significant gains at France’s local elections last month.
The Telegraph reports:
School canteens will no longer offer non-pork meal options in towns where France’s anti-immigration far-right Front National (FN) party won local elections, its leader Marine Le Pen has said.
Mrs Le Pen reignited debate on a sensitive issue about the substitution meals targeting mainly Muslim and Jewish pupils for whom pork is taboo.
“We will accept no religious requirements in the school lunch menus,” Mrs Le Pen told RTL radio. “There is no reason for religion to enter into the public sphere.”
She defended the decision saying it was necessary to “save secularism”.
The FN, skilfully rebranded as more than just an anti-immigrant party, won control of 11 towns and more than 1,400 municipal seats nationwide in recent local elections, easily its best ever performance at the grassroots level of French government.
Marine Le Pen’s party is often charged with being hostile and discriminatory towards Muslims and Jews. The latest move, reported in the global media as ‘Eat pork or go hungry’, will no doubt add to the fears.
The Local.fr reports that Le Pen “launched a fierce row before 2012’s presidential elections when she claimed all meat from abatoirs in the Paris region was prepared using Islamic halal traditions and non-Muslim consumers in the capital were being misled.”
The mayor of Arveyres said pork was served no more than once a week, and that a move to ban alternatives was being considered because of the cost of providing alternative meals.
“Often children who did not take the substitute dinner complained as well and left the pork. It distressed the staff to see how much food was wasted,” Gheysens said.