French far-right leader in row over school pork

Marine Le Pen accused of attacking Muslim and Jewish students

Marine Le Pen accused of attacking Muslim and Jewish students "under the guise of defending secularism"

PARIS – A leading French Muslim has criticized far-right leader Marine Le Pen over claims her party would remove pork alternatives from school canteens in municipalities governed by her National Front party.

President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, Dalil Boubakeur, criticized Le Pen over her comments on Radio Luxembourg last Friday where she claimed the National Front would prohibit substitution meals provided for French Muslim and Jewish students because it "is a violation of the principle of secularism".

"We will not accept any special religious measures in school food menus," said Le Pen.

Boubakeur, however, has claimed "that such a practice would be against the principle of secularism".

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, he said that: "Marine Le Pen is free to think what she wants, but we [Muslims in France] have confidence in the good sense of the school authorities who have until now assimilated the principle of secularism by respecting different religious convictions."

On March 30, Le Pen’s party achieved an historic success by winning control of 11 towns in nationwide local elections.

In her interview Le Pen said: "There is no reason to bring religion into the public sphere. Unfortunately, often secularism is not applied.”

She attacked Socialist Party and Union for Popular Movement mayors, accusing them of turning a blind eye to the issue. 

A French anti-racism group, SOS Racisme, said on Friday: "Marine Le Pen can't give any lesson about secularism," accusing her of attacking Jews and Muslims "under the guise of defending secularism".

The far-right leader was sentenced last week to a fine of 10,000 euros by a court in Bethune, northern France, in a case known as the "fake flyer" where leaflets, showing a picture of a left-wing rival, Jean-Luc Melenchon, calling for "Arab" votes in Arabic, were distributed by National Front workers during 2012 legislative elections.

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