This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of October, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date of broadcasting: 11 October 2019
Media Outlet: Twitter
Author: Julien Odoul, leader of the National Rally (RN) group in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté regional assembly.
Description of the anti-Muslim content: Julien Odoul, far-right politician of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (former National Front), posted a video on Twitter of him requesting a Muslim mother at the regional parliament to remove her headscarf or leave the building. The woman was accompanying his son on a school trip to the regional assembly in Bourgogne-Franche-Comte in France. Odoul addressed the president of the regional council asking her to intervene in the matter and ensure secularity is respected. Odoul’s tweet read: "[RT] In the name of republican and secular principles, I have asked @MarieGuiteDufay to make a parent supervising on a school-trip in the auditorium to remove her Muslim head covering. After the murder of 4 police officers, we must not tolerate this communalist provocation". After the request, the woman’s son cried and hugged his mother, then the whole class left the meeting. Later, the council’s 15 National Rally officials also left the session in protest against her headscarf. Odoul’s video has been viewed more than 4 million times and the photo of the woman hugging her crying son went viral as well. After this incident, several ministers publicly criticised the Muslim headscarf. After this incident, several ministers publicly criticised the Muslim headscarf. The education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer stated on national TV that "the law does not prohibit veiled women from accompanying children, but we do not wish to encourage the phenomenon", which is "not in agreement with our values". On a similar line, Bruno Le Maire, minister of economy and finance, said on France Info that the veil "is legal, but not necessarily desirable". Other government members, such as French government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye, denounced Odoul’s behaviour as discriminatory.
Myth debunked: Secularism, or “laïcité” in the French language, is defined as a fundamental value and essential principle of the Republic by 5 law from 1905. With this law, France established the separation between state and church as well as the freedom to practice religion, and the protection of freedom of conscience. This means that all religions should stay in the private sector, while the public sphere should see secularism respected. In the application of the secular principle, the law of 15 March 2004 which prohibits all clothing or other attire displaying religious worship to be worn in schools, but headscarves are not banned inside the council’s building or in any other public place. So far, while teachers and students cannot wear any religious symbol, including the headscarf, the law does not extend to parents supervising on school-trips, as in the case of the mother accompanying her son. Contrary to what Julien Odoul said, his request does not fall within the principles of secularism that he invoked. Weeks after this incident, however, the French Senate approved an amendment that would extend a ban on wearing religious symbols to those supervising on school trips. In the past few years, the Muslim headscarf has been central to anti-Muslim hatred. Not only does secularism have a higher impact on the Muslim community, but it has also been manipulated by the far-right to promote anti-Muslim racism.
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