French ministry criticizes proposals for religious symbols

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PARIS

The French Minister of the Interior criticized Wednesday two legislative amendments adopted by the legislator prohibiting parents from wearing visible religious symbols when accompanying their children on school trips and allowing public swimming pools to ban “burkini” swimsuits .

Gerald Darmanin said the measures, approved by senators on Tuesday, amounted to “a suppression of religious expression.”

The “Republican Values” bill is currently under discussion in the upper house, which also approved a third amendment prohibiting underage girls from concealing their faces or wearing religious symbols in public places.

Although the text of the bill does not specifically mention the Islamic veil, the controversial issue of prohibiting mothers who voluntarily accompany their children’s school trips from wearing the garment has already been raised in the Senate three times since 2019 and rejected every time.

Right-wing Senator Max Brisson of Les Républicains tabled the amendment, arguing that school trips are educational and that neutrality should be imposed on all who participate, including parents.

Government representative, Darmanin warned the Chamber to “beware of this excessive measure which would tip over [Muslims] on the wrong side. “

“I find it quite paradoxical that we absolutely want to suppress all religious expression of the parents”, he declared, supported by the senator of the Socialist Party Didier Marie, who considered that the amendment would be “dangerous” to suggest a link causality between the veil, political Islam, radicalism, separatism and even terrorism.

Laurent Lafon, chairman of the culture and education committee, wondered whether the bill “misled the target”.

Darmanin also opposed the text banning the burkini. “We cannot in principle deprive the expression of a religious opinion. Neutrality is not imposed on users of the public service,” he said, adding: “Are we going to ban the wearing of signs tomorrow? religious in a bus, who is a spacer? “

The proposal on parents accompanying on school trips was accepted by a majority of votes – 177 for and 141 against, while the proposal allowing swimming pools and public baths to ban Burkinis received wider support.

The Senate will continue examining the bill until April 8, after which it will be tabled before a joint committee where amendments opposed by the Minister of the Interior can be excluded from the final text.

The bill has been widely condemned for indiscriminately targeting the French Muslim community on the grounds of combating extremism and radicalization.

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