French state sues Muslim girl after she accused teacher of hitting her

The right-wing French Prime Minister has announced that the state will sue a Muslim girl who alleged that a headteacher struck her over an argument about removing her hijab.

According to French media and officials, the headmaster at Maurice-Ravel lycée in eastern Paris quit after receiving “death threats” online following the altercation with the teenage student.

On February 28, he asked three students to remove their headscarves on school premises, but one of them refused and an altercation ensued, according to prosecutors.

The student denies refusing to remove her headscarf and lodged a complaint against the principal, accusing him of mistreating her during the incident.

She told the Collective for Countering Islamophobia in Europe (CCIE): “The headteacher turned up and I had a knot in my undercap. Suddenly when I saw him I decided to take it off. But I didn’t have the time to take it off when he arrived. He shouted at me and I turned towards him. I told him: ‘Yes I’m going to take it off’ because he said ‘take it off…’

“Then I tried to take it off and I didn’t even have time to explain or to say anything, he violently pushed me. He hit me violently on the arm. I was shocked, my legs were trembling because this type of thing has never happened to me. I never had a problem since primary school – no altercations either with managers or teachers. No problems, nothing at all. So I was completely shocked that a teacher could hit me like that.

“It’s been difficult because the media is spouting rubbish. I’ll give you an example, when I was in a meeting with my parents the media said that I said he didn’t hit me. But I never said that. So it was difficult. They are not telling the truth. But when I try to tell the truth they twist my words.”

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But the Paris prosecutor’s office on Wednesday told AFP that her complaint had been dismissed.

Subsequently, an investigation was opened into cyber-harassment following the “death threats” against the headmaster. A 26-year-old man has been arrested and is due to stand trial in April.

According to a school letter sent to teachers, pupils and parents on Tuesday, the principal stood down for “security reasons,” while education officials said he had taken “early retirement.”

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who banned the abaya in schools last year, said the state would be filing a complaint against the student over “falsely accusing” the headmaster of mistreatment during the incident.

Gabriel Attal. Pic: Twitter.

“The state… will always stand with these officials, those who are on the front line faced with these breaches of secularism,” said Attal in an interview with the TF1 television channel.

France operates a strict policy of secularism in public institutions which mainly affects practising Muslims and especially females who wear hijab.

In 2004, authorities banned schoolchildren from wearing “signs or outfits by which students ostensibly show a religious affiliation” such as headscarves, turbans or kippas on the basis of the country’s secular laws which are meant to guarantee neutrality in state institutions.

The headmaster’s departure comes amid deep tensions in the country following a series of incidents including the killing of a teacher, Samuel Paty, by a former pupil after he showed students blasphemous images of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Politicians from across the political spectrum in France have now weighed-in to support the headteacher.

“We can’t accept it,” Boris Vallaud, the head of the Socialist deputies in the National Assembly lower house, told television broadcaster France 2, calling the incident “a collective failure.”

Marion Marechal, a popular far-right politician, spoke on Sud Radio of a “defeat of the state” in the face of “the Islamist gangrene.”

Maud Bregeon, a lawmaker with President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party, also took aim at “an Islamist movement.”

“Authority lies with school heads and teachers, and we have a duty to support this educational community,” Bregeon said.

Meanwhile, the CCIE (which has been banned in France for calling the French state racist among other things) said the French media had used the incident to launch a campaign against “Islamism” as well as against it for giving the student a platform to speak.

In a statement it said: “Alas, in a France where the fascist wave is so intense the simple fact that we gave a platform to a Muslim adolescent is enough to provoke a storm. Our engagement covers all forms of discrimination including Muslims who are subject to unfair pressure.

“We have often emphasised that the anti-freedom measures taken by the French government foster a climate of conflict within schools opposing teachers against students and their families. It is time to recognise that these policies do not respond to the real needs of our education system, and far from resolving problems they throw oil upon the fire.

“We call upon our media and other competent authorities to be responsible and diligent in their treatment of this affair to avoid any manipulation and stigmatisation. We will continue to engage to defend freedom of opinion and thought to be heard and respected.”

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