When the French government is not throwing another tantrum about the veil or flooding news channels with all sorts of controversies about how incompatible Islam is with the idea of a secular republic, it appears that its officials are trying to monitor the number of absentees from schools during the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr— a disturbing endeavor receiving widespread backlash and leaving educators astounded.
Nationals of the central European country were stunned to learn that officers from Toulouse’s police department and French intelligence services made a request asking headmasters in the academy of Toulouse to ascertain the number of absentees on April 21, the day that marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan this year. The request was made without the approval of higher relevant bodies, including the Toulouse rectorate.
The shocking request was sent via email, and is reportedly part of a greater investigation following alleged “renewed attacks on secularism in schools” during the weeks of abstinence from food and water, as it was revealed by Mostafa Fourar, rector of the academy, to AFP.
According to Fourar, during Ramadan, videos on social media showed students daring one another to wear the veil at school or to refuse to take part in specific mandatory lessons such as music, prompting authorities to step up and try to tackle this supposed growing trend.
Despite the circumstances, Fourar emphasized on the unacceptable nature of the inexcusable emails, insisting that “if someone has taken this initiative, the National Education is absolutely not involved,” before adding that “as soon as school heads and principals informed us of this request, instructions were obviously given not to respond.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first case of its kind to have risen since Ramadan concluded. On May 11, it was reported that an almost identical email to the one circulating in Toulouse was sent in Hérault, South of France, which was also addressed to the heads of schools in the region asking whether the month of Ramadan has had any impact on absenteeism as well as the exact attendance rate of pupils on Eid Al-Fitr, sparking widespread confusion as to who, what, or why it was sent before a public apology was made out to all affected parties.
While the controversy was quick to generate angered comments and opinions from the country’s first concerned, the concerning manifestation of France’s right-wing direction in regards to Muslims only serves as a reminder of how little the country that prides itself on “liberté,” “egalité,” and “fraternité” has moved away from the repeated heated debates surrounding religious practices, cultural diversity, and Islam in particular. Despite efforts to promote inclusivity and freedom, incidents like these appear to sprout more times than they don’t, making many seriously wonder whether La France à la Macron is really the safe-haven it once pretended to be.