Are halal or kosher menus going to disappear from French schools?
On Monday the 16th, the new Mayor of Chalon-sur-Saône, Gilles Platret, announced his will to no longer offer an alternative dish when pork is on the school cafeteria menu, causing sharp reactions from all over the Hexagon. This decision will apply from September 2015.
Gilles Platret, from the right wing UMP party,
justified his choice by the principles of secularism and equality, claiming that school is not a place of differentiation. “La République est la laïcité”, he says. The former President Nicolas Sarkozy, also from the UMP party, formally approves this choice.
He is aware that it carries a large symbolic importance, but the human impact is minimal : only one hundred pupils in his region chose the “pork-free option” at the school cafeteria (this hundred mainly included Muslim pupils), and dishes made from pork are served less than 20 days per year. Moreover, local authorities are under no obligation to provide those alternative menus. (However, for 31 years in all over the country there was a pork-free choice for pupils).
The Mayor also added that the priority is to feed well all the children: Muslim pupils will be given more vegetables instead of the meat.
This decision provokes a general outcry, especially from Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the Minister of Education. She claims that the first ones to suffer from this will be children themselves. She also adds that there is no logistic difficulties to propose a second choice, and it is also not more expensive.
It seems that after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, France wants to renew the emphasis placed on the laïcité, a principle that clearly distinguishes the state and the religion.