A far-right mayor in southern France has been accused of being “anti-Muslim” after he scrapped pork-free school meals, declaring them “anti-Republican”.
Julien Sanchez, the National Front mayor of Beaucaire, abolished the scheme which was introduced by his predecessor on the first day of the new school term.
The change affects around 150 Muslim pupils out of 600 in total, who opt for the pork-free “substitution meals” instead of the standard choice.
The move was branded “anti-Muslim” and “anti-Jewish” by an equality minister.
Marlene Schiappa told BFM TV the decision was “a typical example of someone brandishing secularism as an anti-Muslim political weapon, or anti-Jewish for that matter.”
In a newspaper article announcing the policy change in December 2017, Sanchez said the pork-free meals were “anti-Republican”.
The opposition leader in Beaucaire, Laure Cordelet, called it “an attack on the rights of children” which “stigmatises the Maghrebi (North African) community and can in no way be justified in the name of secularism.”
The controversy follows a similar case in 2015, when the Republican mayor of south Dijon, Chalon-sur-Saone Gilles Platret, scrapped the pork substitute menu in the town’s school canteens.
Dijon’s administrative court blocked the decision in August 2017, saying it went against the “interests of children”.
The mayor has appealed that decision to the administrative court of appeal of Lyon.
Parents of students opposed to the decision in Beaucaire will gather in front of the town hall for a picnic protest on Monday 15 January.