French National Front leader Marine Le Pen said last Friday that she would stop schools from offering pork-free alternatives to Muslim students in the 11 towns where her party has won local elections. She said this was consistent with France’s “secular values,” or, as she put it, to “save secularism.”
I have a feeling secularism is as threatened in France as Christmas is in the U.S. Meaning, on both sides of the Atlantic these are made up issues designed to stir up political strife where none actually exists.
“We will not accept any religious demands in school menus,” Le Pen declared on French radio. “There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that’s the law.”
It’s true that France has the largest Muslim minority in Europe – roughly 5 million. There are also an estimated half a million Jews there.
But I suspect that those Jewish families who would not serve pork to their children already send them to private Jewish schools. This is, then, not an antisemitic but an anti-Muslim move. For sure, today’s French people don’t feel overwhelmed by a Jewish invasion, while a walk through some parts of Paris would definitely bring to mind the year 699, when the Arab hordes came rushing out of the peninsula to fill up the vacuum left by the dead Roman Empire.
So the National Front is taking advantage of the French resentment of this Asiatic occupation army in their midst, with varying results. Le Pen did not get elected president with her anti-Muslim politics, but doubled its wins in municipal elections.
On occasion, the National Front seems to be having fun with their xenophobic politics: in the town of Hayanges, FN mayor Fabien Engelmann has proposed a Pork Fest, celebrating the many attributes of pigs. And, of course, he insists the festival is not meant to offend Muslims.