SHAFAQNA – A Muslim association won what it called a landmark victory today as a court ruled that schoolchildren who do not eat pork must be offered alternative dishes.
Dijon Administrative Court quashed a decision by Gilles Platret, the mayor of Chalon-sur-Saône in central France, that all the town’s primary school pupils should eat pork or go hungry.
The court said the council’s refusal to offer an alternative to Muslim and Jewish children flew in the face of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The case had been brought by the Muslim Legal Defence League, which denounced the “pork or nothing” policy as “illegal and discriminatory”.
Maître Nicolas Gardères, the league’s lawyer, said the judgment set a nationwide precedent that would prevent other councils from following suit.
Most towns provide alternative meals for Muslim and Jewish pupils on days when pork is served in the school canteen, but a few, like Chalon-sur-Saône, refuse to do so on the grounds that France, being a secular state, should ignore religious demands.
Philippe Petit, the lawyer for the council, had argued in court that when alternative meals were provided, Muslim and Jewish pupils were separated from their classmates in the canteen. “Children are grouped together according to their choices,” he said.
In Chalon-sur-Saône, on the other hand, “all the pupils have their meals together. That is what French secularism is all about”.
The town has a population of about 45,000, and an immigrant community, mainly from France’s former north African colonies, of about 2,500.